Biden Admin Rejects Ohio’s Request For Disaster Aid After Toxic Train Derailment 

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The Biden administration turned down Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s request for federal disaster assistance after a train derailment in East Palestine caused several hazardous chemicals to be released into the air and water ways, Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said that Ohio is not eligible to receive assistance because the incident did not classify as a national disaster, Tierney told the DCNF. The rejection came nearly two weeks after a Norfolk Southern train, which carried harmful chemicals, derailed and nearly 2,000 residents were evacuated before a controlled release of the fumes cast a large plum over the town. (RELATED: ‘Do We Stay?’: Ohioans Seek Answers After Massive Train Derailment Casts Toxic Plume Over Their Town)

FEMA classifies a national disaster declaration as when there is property damage caused by a tornado, flood, hurricane or earthquake, Tierney explained. The state currently does not have associated costs it could “demonstrate to FEMA to be able to get a disaster declaration” since the derailed train cars did not cause any power outages, block any roads or impede resident’s property.

Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4, 2023.

Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4, 2023. (Photo by DUSTIN FRANZ/AFP via Getty Images)

“FEMA is in constant contact with the emergency operations center in East Palestine and with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency,” Jeremy Edwards, FEMA press secretary, told the DCNF. “We are closely coordinating with EPA, HHS, and the CDC, who are helping to test water and air quality, and to conduct public health assessments.”

Norfolk Southern is paying for expenses related to the derailment including hotel costs for residents who were temporarily displaced, Tierney told the DCNF. Ohio is ineligible for FEMA relief unless it can prove the town suffered property damage that is not reimbursable.

“Certainly if FEMA tells us there is a program we can apply for, that we’re eligible for, we will, but there is nothing that we are eligible for or that we’re aware that Ohio is eligible for that we can apply for at FEMA,” Tierney said.

He said that the state received aid from the Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and the Pentagon.

The EPA tested 396 homes and had scheduled to screen 64 more as of Tuesday and reported no detection of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride, regional administrator Debra Shore said in a statement.

Residents, however, remain concerned about the long-term effects the disaster could have on their health. They are being advised by the Ohio Department of Health to drink from bottled water until private wells are tested, according to a Wednesday water quality update from DeWine’s office.

Residents vocalized their concerns during a public hearing Wednesday at a local high school. While Norfolk Southern representatives were supposed to attend, they pulled out at the last minute because of safety concerns.

“I’m just as frustrated. I live in the community, just like you,” Trent Conaway, East Palestine mayor, reportedly told the crowd. “I’m trying to get answers.”

HHS, the EPA, the Pentagon and Conaway did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment. Norfolk Southern could not be reached.

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