Bipartisan Calls For A Senate Investigation Follow The Derailment Of An Ohio Train- Senators from opposing parties agree that a congressional investigation is necessary into the East Palestine, Ohio, railway crash that caused a fire and a toxic chemical spill that affected nearby homes and wildlife for miles.
However, it is currently unknown whether such an investigation would concentrate more on rail company Norfolk Southern or the federal government’s safety regulations and response to the disaster on February 3.
Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, stated on Tuesday that he “absolutely” favors a probe and that his priority at this time is the constituents’ access to clean air and water. Most of them are currently worried about the air and water, so that’s what we’re mostly watching, he said.
On Wednesday, after a 150-car train carrying dangerous chemicals derailed, Vance wrote to Norfolk Southern’s CEO asking the company to extend its financial reimbursement region to cover all inhabitants of East Palestine. Norfolk Southern set fire to railway cars carrying the volatile gas vinyl chloride to avoid an explosion.
The Environmental Protection Agency warned locals of potential stench lingering after the controlled fire but emphasized that vinyl chloride byproducts can produce scents below what is deemed harmful. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio also wants a probe and said he will visit East Palestine “in a few days.” Residents, according to Brown, “have a mistrust about a major firm like that hasn’t demonstrated interest in them in the past.”
He continued, “I mean, it’s the governor’s obligation, it’s the federal government’s responsibility with [the National Transportation Safety Board], and it’s mainly the responsibility of Norfolk Southern to do what they said they would do. In a letter to the NTSB chairman on Wednesday, Pennsylvania Democratic Senators Bob Casey and John Fetterman and Brown and Vance raised concerns about rail safety as the organization carried out its inquiry.
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The senators stated in their letter that hundreds of families had to leave their homes and were now understandably worried about potential long-term health hazards due to the Norfolk Southern train crash. “No American family should have to endure the terrifying experience of leaving their home due to a spill or fire involving hazardous materials in their neighborhood.”
Additionally, the four senators wrote EPA Administrator Michael Regan a letter expressing their worries about releasing hazardous pollutants after the incident.
Regan will visit East Palestine on Thursday to evaluate the response and meet with top officials from all levels of government, the EPA later announced. Separately, Vance and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg with questions about the department’s oversight of the U.S. freight train system and “how it balances building a safe, resilient rail industry across our country about building a hyper-efficient one with minimal direct human input.” Various committees in the Senate have jurisdiction over aspects of the derailment.
The Environment and Public Works Committee, which has oversight of the EPA, could examine the agency’s handling of affected wildlife. In contrast, the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee has the management of rail safety. Staffers from the Environment and Public Works Committee are “receiving regular updates from the EPA on the environmental impacts of this accident,” a committee aide said.
Committee chair Tom Carper, D-Del., tweeted Tuesday that “we must also look for ways to ensure a thorough federal investigation takes place to prevent an incident like this from happening in the future.” Asked for an update Wednesday, Carper said, “My staff is drilling down on it.”
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the top Republican on the panel, who is also a member of the Commerce Committee, told reporters she has spoken with the CEO of Norfolk Southern and is monitoring water testing in the area.
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