Norfolk Southern Corporation President and CEO, Alan Shaw, testifies before a US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing on the environmental and public health threats from the Norfolk Southern February 3 train derailment, on March 9, 2023, in Washington, DC.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Shaw appeared at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to address what committee Democrats called “environmental and public health threats” resulting from the derailment.
Shaw told the Senate panel he is “deeply sorry for the impact this derailment has had on the people of East Palestine and surrounding communities.”
He vowed the company will clean the site fully and that it’s making progress. “We will be in the community for as long as it takes,” he said, adding there are “no strings attached” to the company’s assistance.
As Shaw testified, news surfaced of another Norfolk Southern derailment, this time in Alabama. Around 30 train cars came off the tracks Thursday, though there were no reported injuries and no risk of hazardous material associated with the derailment.
“You’re coming here with three derailments within three months, and the average in the industry is one per month for the entire industry,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., told Shaw during the hearing “So congratulations on maybe some good luck over a few years, but at this moment, your team is the team that has the most derailments in the last three months.”
Shaw, for his part, said Norfolk Southern is committed to providing financial assistance to affected residents and first responders in the region. The company has pledged more than $21 million in reimbursements and investments.
The CEO appeared alongside Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator Debra Shore, Ohio EPA director Anne Vogel, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission executive director Richard Harrison, and Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Department of Emergency Services director Eric Brewer.
At about 9 p.m. local time on Feb. 3, an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight train with 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials derailed near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania and subsequently ignited. The chemicals included vinyl chloride, a highly flammable carcinogen, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
The EPA screened about 600 homes in East Palestine and didn’t detect vinyl chloride or hydrogen chlorine, Shore said. She said the EPA is currently conducting 24/7 air monitoring at 21 stations throughout the community. Vogel added that the Ohio EPA has installed monitoring wells at the site of the derailment to test for potential groundwater contamination, as well as sentinel wells for long-term sampling of groundwater.
Shore said she expects waste from the site to move as soon as Thursday. The EPA waited a month before starting to order dioxin testing.
“We detected very low levels, which very quickly went even down to non-detect. Without those primary indicators, it was a very low probability that dioxins would have been created,” Shore said. “They are secondary byproducts of the burning of vinyl chloride, but we were listening to the community and they expressed significant concerns about toxins.”
There was not a script for this. There wasn’t a binder for me labeled ‘Train Wreck.’
Beaver County official
Texas and Michigan officials said they did not know soil and water from the site of the wreck would be transported to their jurisdictions.
“Michigan officials, the governor, myself, Sen. Peters, Michigan EPA, were not notified before that happened,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “That’s not acceptable to us.”
The committee’s ranking member, Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, said the issue came down to trust and accountability.
“If something like this happens again, God forbid they should also be able to trust the federal government will be quick, deliberate, transparent and clear in their response, and the guilty party parties will be held responsible,” Capito said.
The committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said there was miscommunication surrounding first responders who were under the impression that only one car would be vented and burned rather than five, which left some first responders scrambling. Brewer, the Beaver County official, said the decision was “jaw-dropping.”
“There was not a script for this. There wasn’t a binder for me labeled ‘Train Wreck,'” Brewer said.
The committee also heard from Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and J.D. Vance, a Republican, as well as Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., who together introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The bill aims to enhance safety procedures for trains transporting hazardous materials, establish requirements for wayside defect detectors, increase fines for wrongdoing and create a minimum requirement for two-person crews.
Shaw endorsed parts of the bill by committing to “the legislative intent to make rail safer.” Shaw said during the hearing that Norfolk Southern installed its first new wayside detector on Wednesday, though he said there is no indication these detectors were faulty before the East Palestine derailment. Shaw did not address a provision of the bill requiring a minimum of two-person crews on every locomotive.
Shaw refused to say whether Norfolk Southern would commit to ensuring families full compensation for diminished property values when questioned by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
No fatalities were reported after the East Palestine derailment, though residents and officials have raised concerns. Rail union representatives told Biden administration officials at a meeting last week that rail workers have fallen ill in East Palestine during the site cleanup.
Pressed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist from Vermont, Shaw said “everything is on the table” regarding covering health care needs for East Palestine residents. He also did not directly say whether the company would provide sick days for all employees.
Ohio senators speak up
Vance expressed frustration at fellow Republicans who have opposed legislation to hold the company accountable, including those who “think that any public safety enhancements for the rail industry is somehow a violation of the free market.”
The NTSB released a preliminary report on Feb. 23 that pointed to an overheated wheel bearing as a factor in the derailment and fire. At the time, the train was instructed to stop, the bearing’s temperature measured 253 degrees hotter than ambient temperatures, above a threshold of 200 degrees hotter at which point temperatures are considered critical, according Norfolk Southern criteria.
On Saturday, another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Ohio, after which residents near Springfield were ordered to shelter in place. The train was not carrying hazardous materials, and no injuries were reported, though there were power outages in the area.
Hours after that derailment, internal emails obtained by CNBC indicated that Norfolk Southern was making broad safety adjustments to prevent future incidents. A company spokesman told CNBC the train carrier is now mandating trains over 10,000 feet long use distributed power, such that trains are powered from several locations across their length.
The Norfolk Southern incidents have spurred wide-sweeping reviews by government agencies. On Tuesday, the NTSB said it had opened a special investigation into the company’s organization and safety culture following the derailments. Separately, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it would conduct a 60-day supplement safety assessment of the company.
“We see what the company did with their massive profits. Norfolk Southern spent $3.4 billion on stock buybacks last year and are planning to do even more this year,” Brown said Thursday. “That’s money that could have gone to hiring inspectors to put in more hot box detectors along its rail lines and having more workers available to repair cars and repair tracks.”
The company has cut around 40% of its workforce since 2015, but Shaw said the company is now “aggressively hiring employees.”
On Wednesday, Norfolk Southern announced it will create a new regional training center in Ohio for first responders, as well as expand its Operation Awareness and Response program, which educates first responders on safely responding to rail incidents. Training classes will begin on March 22 at Norfolk Southern’s Bellevue, Ohio, yard.
From Cartel to Evangelist: The Inspiring Journey of Juan Reyes, Puerto Rico’s Entrepreneur and Author
In the realm of entrepreneurship, few stories are as captivating and inspiring as that of Juan Reyes, a self-made entrepreneur and author hailing from Juncos, Puerto Rico. Despite being born into a low-income family, Reyes defied the odds and carved his path to success through sheer determination, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to his goals. From establishing thriving businesses to becoming a renowned author, Reyes’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the indomitable spirit of an individual driven by faith and dedication.
A Journey Born out of Necessity
Growing up in Juncos, Puerto Rico, Juan Reyes faced significant challenges stemming from his family’s financial limitations. To support himself and contribute to his family’s well-being, Reyes began working from a young age. However, he never allowed his circumstances to dampen his dreams or extinguish his ambition. Determined to change his destiny, Reyes embarked on a path that would not only uplift his own life but also inspire countless others.
A Multifaceted Entrepreneur
Reyes’s entrepreneurial acumen led him to establish several successful ventures that have made a profound impact. Among his notable accomplishments are King of Credit Repair LLC, KCL Clothing Inc, and Shalom Renovation LLC. These enterprises not only generated substantial revenue but also provided employment opportunities for others. Reyes’s astute understanding of business markets, coupled with his expertise in real estate, notary services, modeling, and preaching, contributed to his ability to transform businesses from scratch into multi-million dollar ventures.
Authorship and Beyond
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Juan Reyes is also a respected author. His debut book, “From the Cartel to the Evangelist,” has garnered significant attention and acclaim. This captivating literary work chronicles Reyes’s personal journey, from overcoming adversity to finding redemption and purpose through his faith. The book serves as a testament to Reyes’s resilience and unwavering determination, inspiring readers to believe in their own potential and navigate their own paths to success.
Sponsored by Christian Faith Publishing
Reyes’s literary endeavors have received a significant boost through the sponsorship of Christian Faith Publishing. This collaboration has allowed Reyes to reach a wider audience with his powerful message of transformation, faith, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The partnership between Reyes and Christian Faith Publishing (visit the website here) has opened doors for him to inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals seeking personal growth.
Recognizing the significance of his own journey, Juan Reyes has made it his mission to give back to society and uplift others. Through speaking engagements and mentoring programs, Reyes shares his knowledge, unique ideas, and experiences with business leaders and young individuals alike. His teachings have become a beacon of hope for those who have faced similar challenges and made similar mistakes, demonstrating that even a fallen business can rise to great heights.
The Pride of Juncos, Puerto Rico
Juan Reyes remains deeply connected to his roots in Juncos, Puerto Rico. His success story has not only become a source of pride for the local community but also an inspiration for the youth in the neighborhood. Reyes’s achievements serve as a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship, instilling hope and motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to strive for greatness despite their circumstances.
Juan Reyes’s journey from a humble upbringing in Juncos, Puerto Rico, to becoming a renowned entrepreneur and author is a testament to the triumph of resilience, determination, and faith. Through his businesses, writing, and mentorship, Reyes exemplifies the boundless potential that lies within every individual. He reminds us that with unwavering dedication and a strong belief in oneself, anyone can rise above adversity and create a life of purpose and success. Juan Reyes is an inspiration, not only to entrepreneurs but to all those who dare to dream big and overcome the odds.
Disney CEO Bob Iger rips Ron DeSantis over ‘anti-Florida’ retaliation
Bob Iger, CEO, Disney, during CNBC interview, Feb. 9, 2023.
Randy Shropshire | CNBC
Bob Iger on Monday called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against The Walt Disney Co. retaliatory, “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The feud between DeSantis and the company escalated earlier Monday, when the governor asked the state’s inspector general to determine whether the House of Mouse’s sly move to retain control over the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties is legal – and whether any of the company’s executives were involved in the scheme.
During the company’s annual shareholder meeting Monday, Disney CEO Iger addressed investor inquiries about the ongoing dispute between the company and Florida legislators. He noted that Disney has more than 75,000 employees in the state, and has created thousands of indirect jobs, as well as brings around 50 million visitors to Florida every year and is the state’s largest taxpayer
“A year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation,” Iger said, apparently referring to what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.”
He added: “The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business. In effect, to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me.”
Iger said Disney plans to spend more than $17 billion in investments at Walt Disney World over the next decade, which would create around 13,000 jobs at the company and generate even more taxes for Florida.
“Our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said. “And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Last week, DeSantis’ newly appointed board of the Reedy Creek district, now named the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, revealed that the previous Disney-allied board signed a long-lasting agreement that drastically limits the control that can be exercised over the company and its district.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during ‘The Florida Blueprint’ event on Long Island, New York, United States on April 1, 2023. Ron DeSantis made comments on the Grand Jury’s indictment of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States in Manhattan, New York.
Kyle Mazza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The agreement was signed on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House voted to put DeSantis in charge. DeSantis replaced all of the Disney-allied board members with five Republicans on Feb. 27. It was only then that Disney’s new binding agreement was discovered.
The agreement includes a clause that dates back to 1692 in Britain. The “Declaration shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration,” the document said.
The governor’s letter calls the board’s agreement an attempt to “usurp the authority of the CFTOD board” and “nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians.”
He said at the agreement also has “legal infirmities” including inadequate notice, improper delegation of authority and ethical violations.
Disney, however, has said that all of the board’s maneuvers were completely legal — the agreement was discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums, in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine law.
The development in DeSantis’ conflict with Disney marks just the latest move in one of several partisan battles being waged by the Republican governor.
DeSantis is widely believed to be laying the groundwork to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. That move is expected to come not long after the current Florida legislative session ends in early May. Polls show that DeSantis is the most competitive of the potential opponents for former President Donald Trump in a GOP primary.
The Florida governor took aim at Disney after the company publicly balked at Florida’s HB 1557 law early last year. HB 1557, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Republican state Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last April that the bill dissolving Reedy Creek wasn’t retaliatory, but then said “when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.”
Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about dissolving Disney’s long-established special district, which it’s occupied for 55 years, leading DeSantis’ critics to question its timing and the speed at which the governor acted against the company.
The fight between DeSantis and Disney shows no signs of slowing down. During a book tour stop in Georgia last week, DeSantis told attendees “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
WWE near deal to be sold to UFC parent Endeavor, sources say
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon appears in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
A deal could be announced as soon as Monday. UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the agreement, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is slated to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders would get 49%, according to the people. The Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion, they said.
Emanuel is expected to act as chief executive of both Endeavor and the new company. McMahon, likewise, is expected to be executive chairman, while Endeavor President Mark Shapiro will also work in the same role at the new company. Dana White will remain as president of UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as president of the wrestling business.
The development comes during the same weekend WWE hosts its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company has spent the past several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as chairman in January to oversee the process. Shares of WWE are up more than 33% so far this year, giving it a market value of more than $6.79 billion.
The deal will effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family-run business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation during the middle of the 20th century, and McMahon is the controlling shareholder in the company. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has grown into a global phenomenon, spawing stars suck as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July following a string of revelations that he paid several women millions of dollars over the years to keep them quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, who’s both Stephanie McMahon’s husband and the wrestler known as Triple H, took over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon came back in January, Stephanie McMahon stepped down and Khan fully assumed the CEO role. The elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year employment contract, according to a securities filing.
Khan in recent weeks has been making the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. He told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday that it’s been a robust sale process, drawing many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it a robust media and live events business, along with its decades worth of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, driven mainly by its $1 billion media unit.
UFC has paid off for Endeavor. Last year, the MMA league helped Endeavor’s sports business make $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor’s market cap stood at about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavor-WWE deal values UFC at more than $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit well with the cultures at Endeavor and UFC. McMahon has a brash public persona, making him an apparently good match for Emanuel and White, who are also known for their outsized personalities.
White, like McMahon, is no stranger to scandal, either. Earlier this year, video emerged showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public argument at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events such as WrestleMania.
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