Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has done what many Oklahomans believe is correct in refusing to accept from Ohio upward of 3,600 tons of toxic soil, but we're not so sure he can legally do that.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday argued that it's "unlawful" to refuse shipments of waste from other states and accused the Republican governor of "playing politics at the expense of the people of East Palestine, Ohio."

A Clean Harbors facility near Waynoka, about 40 miles east of Woodward, is under contract with Norfolk Southern to receive thousands of tons of toxic waste from the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, officials said. The train crash caused a toxic chemical spill, which officials are attempting to remediate.

Stitt has concerns about whether the toxic soil is safe, what testing had been done to ensure it wouldn't endanger Oklahomans, and why the EPA and Norfolk Southern would want to transport it so far away from Ohio. Stitt also questioned why disposal facilities in Michigan or closer geographic states to Ohio aren't being asked to take it or are outright refusing it.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said there was no reason for states to block shipments of the type of waste that certified facilities routinely handle every day.

Oklahoma may ultimately be responsible for accepting the hazardous waste. The contract has been signed between Norfolk Southernand The Clean Harbors Environmental Services.

The Clean Harbors Environmental Services Lone Mountain Facility south of Waynoka has a hazardous waste permit authorizing storage, treatment, recycling, and disposal of a wide variety of hazardous wastes.

But we need to find a way to eliminate some of the hazardous waste that is shipped in this country -- not only by rail, but by other methods, as well. There are plenty of trucks on the highways transporting those chemicals. And these chemicals travel through every state in the country.

The companies transporting the hazardous chemicals should be the ones responsible for cleaning up the waste, and if the company in Oklahoma can accept the chemicals without anyone being hurt or sickened and federal law says Oklahoma has to accept it, we have to trust that they will regulate it properly.

Muskogee Phoenix

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