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East Palestine becomes GOP’s next focus

East PalestineAt East Palestine, Ohio, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed earlier this month.

Because of the dangerous chemicals on board, the train derailment resulted in a fire.

Additionally, because of the danger of an explosion, officials ordered an evacuation for the area within a mile of the crash, which happened near James Street.

While the EPA community removed floating trash while monitoring the air, dams stemmed the flow of contaminated water.

Despite the fact that individuals have returned, some have reported health difficulties such as:

  • Breathing troubles
  • Nausea
  • Rashes

Norfolk Southern, the company in charge of the hazardous material, has actively participated in the monitoring by distributing bottled water to East Palestine residents.

Yet, some passengers have filed a first-class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern.

In addition, Republican lawmakers are proposing a probe into the train disaster.

The news

According to committee leaders, several House Republican committees plan to investigate the event in East Palestine, Ohio.

Republican senators have threatened to use their oversight powers to investigate the Biden administration’s “flawed” response to the event.

A Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed on February 3, compromising East Palestine residents’ access to city air and public water.

According to authorities, Republicans have left the door open for hearings, possibly summoning Michael Regan and Pete Buttigieg to speak publicly.

Buttigieg is the Secretary of Transportation, while Regan is the director of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Regrettably, the decisions have not yet been made.

A fresh sense of urgency

The Republican Party’s increasing emphasis on monitoring comes after numerous senators chastised President Joseph Biden for neglecting to visit East Palestine.

Last week, Biden said he had no plans to visit the site, citing his administration’s stance.

“You know, we were there two hours after the train went down – two hours,” said the president.

“I’ve spoken with every single major figure in both Pennsylvania and in Ohia, and so the idea that we’re not engaged is just simply not there.”

“And initially, there was not a request for me to go out even before I was heading over to Kyiv, so I’m keeping very close tabs on it. We’re doing all we can.”

A committee has been created to look into what transpired and hold the Biden administration and the train sector accountable for the accident.

The committee consists of:

  • The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
  • The House Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • The House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Additionally, some GOP committee members are discussing having a field hearing in East Palestine.

Formal plans have yet to be finalized, according to sources involved with the conversations.

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Reaching out

The Energy and Commerce Committee asked that the Environmental Protection Agency come before the panel’s Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee.

According to a committee aide, GOP Rep. Bill Johnson, who represents East Palestine, chairs the panel.

Johnson is joined by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Energy and Commerce Committee Chair and a Republican from Washington state.

On February 17, they opened the inquiry by writing to Regan and asking for information regarding the chain of events preceding the train disaster.

They also asked for the following:

  • A list of the chemicals on the train
  • Materials relating to the EPA’s and local agencies’ response
  • Other information regarding the derailment

The deadline for responding to Johnson and McMorris Rodgers’ request is March 3.

Meanwhile, the Energy and Commerce Committee sought an all-members briefing and a hearing date from EPA officials.

According to insiders, they are still waiting for a response.

Close tabs

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee spokesperson Justin Harclerode stated that the committee wants to keep members informed when additional information becomes available.

The committee is also keeping a close eye on the National Transportation Safety Board’s inquiry.

“The important thing is to learn exactly what happened, what factors played a role in the accident, and what factors did not,” said Harclerode.

“The Committee is staying engaged on this issue, but no one should jump to any conclusions or act without all the facts. Which is exactly what the NTSB is working to provide through their investigation.”

On Friday, House Oversight Chairman James Comer wrote to Pete Buttigieg, describing the situation as an environmental and public health disaster that affects Americans.

Comer requested that Buttigieg turn over materials relating to the catastrophe, including what the administration learned about the disaster and communication about the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s handling of the derailment’s paperwork.

“At this time, Chairman Comer is focused on acquiring the documents and information requested in his February 24 letter to Secretary Buttigieg,” said Austin Hacker, a spokesman for Comer.

Image source: Spectrum News

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