Trains, Toxins, and Government Lies: Norfolk Southern’s ‘32 Nasty’ And ‘Pothole Pete’ Buttigieg

By Mary Fanning and Alan Jones | The American Report | February 16, 2023

The environmentally disastrous February 3, 2023 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio of Norfolk Southern train 32N, transporting rail tanker cars filled with dangerous chemicals, has been compared to the 1986 Chernobyl radiation disaster in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Both the “controlled” burn of the derailed tanker cars and the chemicals they spilled in East Palestine and the massive radiation leak at Chernobyl were man-made environmental catastrophes capable of causing cancer and death among both humans and wildlife.

Ultimately, responsibility for the Chernobyl disaster lies at the feet of Soviet officials who controlled the nuclear plant and launched an immediate cover up, and responsibility for the East Palestine disaster lies at the feet of the federal officials who regulate U.S. railroads: President Joe Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Responsibility for the East Palestine derailment environmental catastrophe also lies with Norfolk Southern, which adopted a controversial cost-cutting operational strategy known as precision scheduled railroading (PSR). The biggest Norfolk Southern shareholders are Vanguard Group, JP Morgan Investment Management, and Blackrock Fund Advisors.

Norfolk Southern Train 32N, A.K.A. ‘32 Nasty,’ And Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) 

Motherboard Tech by Vice reported on February 15, 2023:

Motherboard has been reporting on the freight rail industry for two years, during which time we have interviewed dozens of Norfolk Southern employees across the company’s service area about how a change in management philosophy has made working conditions worse and jeopardized safety in exchange for supposed gains in efficiency…

…In the past week, Motherboard has also interviewed two workers with direct knowledge of 32N. Those two workers have provided additional details about 32N included in this story that shed light on the train’s reputation in the months before its derailment. Motherboard also reviewed  documents showing details of the train’s weight distribution by car and broken down by sections of the train. As with previous reporting on the freight rail industry, Motherboard is not revealing the names of those workers because they are fearful of retribution for speaking publicly.

For years, Norfolk Southern, like several other major freight rail companies, has prioritized moving trains as quickly as possible out of terminals and rail yards over safety as part of a wider move across the freight railroad industry towards a management philosophy called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) intended to move more freight for lower costs. Safety inspection times and personnel have been slashed, hindering efforts to ensure trains are safe before they leave yards or terminals. Crews are dissuaded from reporting safety issues. Workers that persist in raising red flags are often ignored.

Over the past several years, Motherboard has reported that Norfolk Southern’s lax safety practices have been applied to its entire network, reflecting a trend happening across the freight rail industry. But the two workers Motherboard spoke to this week said 32N in particular was a known safety risk. Like airline flight numbers, railroads assign the same train number to different physical trains that run the same routes on a repetitive schedule. 32N, which travels from outside St. Louis to the edge of Pittsburgh, has a reputation.

On the run that ended abruptly on the outskirts of East Palestine, multiple red flags, including two mechanical problems, about 32N went undetected or were ignored in the hours leading up to the crash, according to the two workers familiar with the train. These red flags were especially concerning, said these workers, because 32N is widely known among workers as a difficult train to run, not because of especially difficult terrain or equipment, but as a result of management decisions about how the train would be put together.

As a result, 32N has a nickname among some rail workers. It is common for trains to have nicknames in the railroad industry, but, as one worker told Motherboard, the nicknames are given “for a reason.” They call this one “32 Nasty.”

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor ‘Pothole Pete’ Buttigieg Lacked Transportation Experience

Image: Biden for President

Buttigieg possessed no significant transportation sector experience when Biden nominated him to the federal government’s highest transportation cabinet position, and has maintained a cavalier and disinterested attitude concerning the East Palestine train disaster throughout the nearly three week period since the derailment that initiated the environmental disaster.

Fox News reported:

President-elect Joe Biden tapped Pete Buttigieg to serve as transportation secretary, but as leader of South Bend, Ind. the former mayor had a pothole problem.

The 38-year-old served as mayor from 2012 to 2020, as he forayed into national politics in the Democratic primary.

But in 2019, the South Bend Tribune reported that many residents felt the city had the ”worst pothole situation in the state.”

According to Transportation Nation:

As news of Buttigieg’s likely nomination [for Department of Transportation Secretary] broke on Tuesday, questions surrounding his lack of qualifications to lead such a massive bureaucracy quickly surfaced.

In response, Buttigieg said he has a “personal love of transportation” which he developed as a child and later strengthened during his college years.

Specifically, he mentioned that during his time at Harvard College he would travel back to his home in Indiana by Amtrak and referred to himself as a “train enthusiast.”

He also pointed to the fact he proposed to his husband at an airport.

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s Father Translated The “Prison Diaries” Of Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci

Pete Buttigieg’s father Joseph Buttigieg was born in Malta and translated the “Prison Diaries,” written by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.

Forbes wrote:

An institute was established in Frankfurt, Germany to study Marxism’s cultural aspects. It absorbed Antonio Gramsci’s theories suggesting that “cultural hegemony” should surpass class struggle as the preferred pathway to proletariat power. This organization soon became known as the Frankfurt School to obscure its Marxist suppositions.

Deadly Toxins Released During ‘Controlled Burn’ At Crash Site Of Norfolk Southern Train Derailment In East Palestine, Indiana

While staying largely silent on the East Palestine toxic train catastrophe, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg did find time to complain that “often a neighborhood of color that finally sees the project come to them but everyone in the hardhats on that project looking like, you know, doing — doing the good paying jobs don’t look like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood.”

ABC News reported in a February 13, 2023 article titled “There were more toxic chemicals on train that derailed in Ohio than originally reported, data shows”:

State health officials were initially concerned about the presence of vinyl chloride, a highly volatile colorless gas produced for commercial uses, which spilled after about 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 while traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania. Other toxins, like phosgene and hydrogen chloride, were emitted in large plumes of smoke during a controlled release and burn, prompting officials to issue mandatory evacuation orders in a one-mile radius of the crash site.

A list of the cars that were involved in the derailment and the products they were carrying released by Norfolk Southern reveal several more toxic chemicals that were released into the air and soil following the crash.

A Norfolk Southern train derail PDF document posted on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s website reveals that the status of four tank cars, IDs ILX 402025 (line #28), OCPX 80235 (line #29), OCPX 80179 (line #30), and OCPX 80370 (line #55), all DOT 105J300W tank cars hauling stabilized vinyl chloride, UN ID 1086, a flammable gas, is “car did not leak/cars vent product through the PRD [Pressure Release Device] and ignited/vent and burn performed.”

The status of one more tank car GATX 95098, (line #31), another DOT 105J300W tank car hauling stabilized vinyl chloride, is “vent product through the PRD [Pressure Release Device] and ignited/vent and burn.”

The UN [United Nations] Identification Number for vinyl chloride, stabilized, is 1086.

UN ID 1086 Hazmat Placard used when transporting Vinyl chloride, stabilized

According to SafeRack:

Located on the back or sides of trailers or other containers, UN numbers (or UN IDs) are four-digit numbers ranging from 0004-3534 that identify dangerous goods or hazardous substances — such as explosives, flammable liquids, or toxic substances — in the framework of international transport.

These numbers are assigned by the United Nations (UN) Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, and must be listed on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) of each shipment.

According to federal regulations, each freight container, railcar, transport vehicle, or other vessel carrying hazardous materials must display placards on each side and each end. Regulations also state that placards on railcars and transport vehicles must be clearly visible from the direction they face unless they are obscured when coupled with another railcar or transport vehicle.

“Vinyl chloride was released into the air Monday from five of those cars before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke,” USA Today / The Associated Press reported on February 8, 2023.

“[Pennsylvania Governor Josh] Shapiro argued, the railway company [Norfolk Southern] provided inaccurate information about the effect of the controlled release of chemicals, and failed to update state and local officials on its plan to release vinyl chloride from all five cars carrying the chemical rather than just the one car it had originally identified,” Daily Mail reported.

“In a statement, Norfolk Southern said it was not attending Wednesday’s open house gathering [at a school gym in East Palestine] with local, state and federal officials because of a “growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event,” the Associated Press reported on February 15, 2023.

“Chronic, low-level vinyl chloride exposure may cause angiosarcoma of the liver, an extremely rare form of cancer,” according to the U.S. Department Of Health & Human Services.

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) Emergency Preparedness Response web page titled “Facts About Phosgene,” (archived here), “Phosgene was used extensively during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent. Among the chemicals used in the war, phosgene was responsible for the large majority of deaths.”

CBS News reported:

Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen, according to the National Cancer Institute. The colorless manmade gas is used to make polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PVC, a type of hard plastic resin. According to the Institute, the gas is linked to “an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer” known as hepatic angiosarcoma. That type of cancer accounts for only 2% of liver tumors, and according to a 2018 journal publication, is “exceptionally deadly.” The average life expectancy for those who are diagnosed is just 10 months.

It is also linked to primary liver cancer, brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukemia…

…Five train cars were carrying this substance at the time of the accident, according to a report published by the EPA on Sunday. According to a 2006 publication by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the substance breaks down in the air within a few days, forming other chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde and carbon dioxide.

Officials were worried that the burn would lead to phosgene and hydrogen chloride in the air, the former of which is a “major industrial chemical” that is a poisonous gas at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and was “used extensively during World War I as a choking (pulmonary) agent,” according to the CDC.

“Among the chemicals used in the war, phosgene was responsible for the large majority of deaths,” the agency said.

Of note, the CDC created a PDF document called “Toxicological Profile of Vinyl Chloride, Draft for Public Comment on January 3, 2023, and updated that document on February 13, 2013.

DOT Secretary Buttigieg’s NTSB: “NTSB is not involved in air monitoring, testing of water quality, environmental remediation or the evacuation orders … Questions on environmental issues should be referred to the Environmental Protection Agency”; “Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment”

According to a February 14, 2023 press release from the Buttigieg DOT’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) titled “Investigative Update on Ohio Train Derailment,” “NTSB is not involved in air monitoring, testing of water quality, environmental remediation or the evacuation orders … Questions on environmental issues should be referred to the Environmental Protection Agency”:

NTSB is conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments. The NTSB can also issue urgent recommendations at any point during the investigation. All questions regarding the safety investigation should go to NTSB. While emergency response will be a factor in the investigation, NTSB is not involved in air monitoring, testing of water quality, environmental remediation or the evacuation orders. Questions on environmental issues should be referred to the Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more: East Palestine Train Derailment – EPA OSC Response.

Parties to the NTSB investigation provide technical assistance. They include: U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration, Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Village of East Palestine, Norfolk Southern Railway, Trinity Industries Leasing Company, GATX Corporation, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen…

…NTSB investigators have identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment. Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

Charlie Kirk: “The use of phosgene gas is a war crime under the Geneva Protocol. Our government just released a trainload of it into the air in Ohio, and is telling people that it’s safe to return home”

Charlie Kirk, co-founder of Turning Point USA, tweeted on February 13, 2021 “The use of phosgene gas is a war crime under the Geneva Protocol. Our government just released a trainload of it into the air in Ohio, and is telling people that it’s safe to return home.”

“It was only the use of all gas that was outlawed by the Geneva Protocol of 1925,” BBC reported… “The Protocol itself makes the lofty statement that gas ‘has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilised world.’”

“Potent Killing Agent” Phosgene Gas: “discharge of four pints (2 liters) of yellow liquid from the lungs each hour for the 48 of the drowning spasms”

According to’s web page “Poison gas in World War I”:

The use of poison gas in World War I was a major military innovation. The gases ranged from disabling chemicals, such as tear gas and the severe mustard gas, to lethal agents like phosgene and chlorine. This chemical warfare was a major component of the first global war and first total war of the 20th century…

…Colorless and having an odor likened to “mouldy hay,” phosgene was difficult to detect, making it a more effective weapon…

…Phosgene was a potent killing agent, deadlier than chlorine. It had a potential drawback in that the symptoms of exposure took 24 hours or more to manifest, meaning that the victims were initially still capable of putting up a fight; although this could also mean that apparently fit troops would be incapacitated by the effects of the gas the following day…

…Death by gas was particularly horrific. According to Denis Winter (Death’s Men, 1978), a fatal dose of phosgene eventually led to “shallow breathing and retching, pulse up to 120, an ashen face and the discharge of four pints (2 liters) of yellow liquid from the lungs each hour for the 48 of the drowning spasms.”


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