Congressman Says East Palestine Citizens Deserve Answers After Catastrophic Train Derailment
A Norfolk Southern train derailment that occurred two weeks ago in eastern Ohio still has not received the attention it should have from the federal government, said Representative Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) February 17 on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins.” Those impacted by the disaster need answers, he insisted.
The February 3 incident and “controlled explosion” of leaking rail tanker cars by authorities in East Palestine, Ohio escaped the national media’s attention for days. Yet as a result of the derailment, 38 rail cars derailed, including 11 carrying hazardous materials, according to a National Transportation Safety Board press release.
The decision to drain and ignite the contents of the tankers, which carried vinyl chloride, prompted an intense explosion that sent a plume of dark smoke and particulates high over the town of nearly 5,000 people, has sparked controversy over the federal government’s response.
Citing the health and environmental concerns of those who live in the area, Johnson said the community remains in an “emergency phase.”
The Ohio congressman, whose district includes East Palestine, told “Washington Watch” guest host Jody Hice February 17 on “Washington Watch”that he has stood at ground zero of the train derailment and “controlled explosion.” “We can’t dismiss the claims of the community about some of the ailments that they’re seeing and the fears that they have for their children to go outside,” he said.
“My number one concern today is getting the people of this community the answers that they need,” Johnson emphasized. Johnson serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Budget Committee. He complimented the work of the state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies in responding to the incident. “While there is still a long way to go,” Johnson continued, “they are making progress.”
Yet Johnson said what has happened in East Palestine should not happen in any community in the U.S. “The people here are frightened. They’re scared. They’re not getting answers to their questions …” the congressman continued.
“They’re concerned about the air in their homes and the water that they drink. And there’s been a lot of confusion,” Johnson said.
Residents of the eastern Ohio town are extremely frustrated and have “more questions than answers,” Hice agreed, noting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has indicated he has no plans to visit East Palestine and that the Biden administration determined the region fails to qualify for federal disaster aid.
Johnson said he was surprised that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied the request for disaster funding. “If this doesn’t qualify as a disaster, I don’t know what does,” he said, noting he has reached out for an explanation. The congressman said as well that he was shocked that Secretary Buttigieg has not visited the site. Johnson noted the National Transportation Safety Board is moving forward with their own investigation of the matter.
He called Secretary Buttigieg’s February 13 statement on the East Palestine tragedy an “outrageous comment.”
Buttigieg told Yahoo! Finance Live that “... while this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1,000 cases a year of a train derailing.”
“The secretary has been AWOL, absent without leave,” Johnson argued. “He just has not been tuned into this at all.” The congressman said Buttigieg’s comment suggests he is being “very lighthearted” about the incident.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) announced late Friday evening FEMA has reportedly reversed course and will respond to the emergency situation in East Palestine with federal resources.
K.D. Hastings and his family live in the beautiful hills of Middle Tennessee. He has been engaged in the evangelical world as a communicator since 1994.