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It’s been one year since a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The Feb. 3, 2023, accident triggered chemical spills, 100-foot flames, mass evacuations, and a national reckoning over safety conditions on the country’s rail lines. And since then, not much has changed.

Despite the removal of millions of gallons of wastewater and 350 million pounds of contaminated soils from the crash area, nearby streams still glimmer with a chemical sheen. Some residents are still displaced from their homes and unsure of when it will be safe to return, even though the temporary assistance program designed to help them ends on Feb. 9. Rail workers are still fighting to reverse railroads’ cost-cutting efforts and require larger crews on freight trains. And the CEO of Norfolk Southern, the rail conglomerate that owned and operated the derailed train, remains ensconced in his well-paying job. 

The stasis extends to Washington. Rail safety legislation proposed in the wake of The Lever’s groundbreaking reporting on lax regulations after the crash has stalled. President Joe Biden is still promising to visit East Palestine at some point in the near future, just like he did in the weeks following the accident. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is still suggesting there’s not much he can do, even though his agency regulates railroad safety.