Members of both parties have expressed outrage and concern over the potential environmental and health impacts caused by the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, with many of them seeking answers from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
After a 50-car freight train derailed in Ohio on Feb 3, noxious gases plumed into the air when the hazardous materials located within the cars erupted into massive flames. To avoid a “catastrophic” blast of pressurized containers, officials performed a “controlled vent and burn” of other toxic chemicals at the site, telling the public that “no concerning” air and water quality readings had been detected, ABC News reported. As reports of animals dying in the evacuation zone are reaching lawmakers, however, many are calling for an inquiry.
East Palestine railroad derailment will have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades and there is almost zero national media attention.
We need Congressional inquiry and direct action from @PeteButtigieg to address this tragedy. https://t.co/I42g4fXWsz
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 13, 2023
“East Palestine railroad derailment will have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades and there is almost zero national media attention,” Democrat Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted Monday. Omar further called for a “Congressional inquiry” and “direct action” from Buttigieg.
Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance called the wreck and its aftermath “horrific” urging any member of the community with “credible reports of environmental harms” to contact his office.
My statement on the train crash in East Palestine. pic.twitter.com/E3IiyKOC2Z
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) February 13, 2023
As for the wreck itself, Vance stated, “Many questions remain unanswered about the quality of the braking system used, the durability of the repair parts in the trains and the Transportation Department’s regulatory approach to our nation’s rail system. Aside from this incident, there is a troubling trend of catastrophic infrastructure problems in our country, and more than a few reports of sabotage. My office will be investigating these concerns in the weeks to come,” he said, according to WFMJ.
Democrat Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown echoed Vance’s concerns about potential environmental impacts of the wreck urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do full safety testing and charged the train company Norfolk Southern to shoulder the cost and responsibility of the clean-up.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace openly wondered why a journalist covering the disaster was arrested for “just asking questions.”
Buttigieg tweeted about the derailment Monday night expressing his continued “concern” for the families affected by the disaster. The secretary assured that the EPA and federal partners were onsite performing tests in and around the wreck site. He assured his commitment to “ensure accountability” and “support safety.” (RELATED: Pete Buttigieg Frets That Too Many Construction Crews ‘Don’t Look Like’ The Neighborhoods They Work In)
Buttigieg’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.
The National Transportation Board, the entity leading the investigation for the cause of the crash, has cited a “mechanical issue,” specifically a problem with one of the rail car’s axles, as being responsible for the accident, the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reported.
Security footage shared with the outlet from multiple businesses 20 miles away from the wreck site shows a glow emanating from the bottom of one of the rail cars situated a few dozen away from the front of the locomotive. Such an issue would typically set off warning detectors known as “hot boxes” which are normally situated every 10-20 miles along the track. If a problem is detected, protocols require the train to stop and the conductor to investigate, the Post Gazette explained.