NBC: House Committee planning hearing in East Palestine on derailment response
NBC News reported on Tuesday that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is working on a plan to hold a field hearing in East Palestine on the response to the February 3 toxic train derailment in the village.
No dates have been released for any such hearings.
The report comes as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy Rodgers, Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Subcommittee Vice Chair Rep. John Joyce (R-PA) letters were sent to the Ohio EPA and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection requesting information about their response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
“The recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio has upended the lives of the residents in that community and threatened the surrounding communities in places like Western Pennsylvania. The people in these communities deserve full transparency from federal and state environmental protection officials to better understand what happened with this derailment and the extent to which their air, water, and soil has been contaminated,” said the three Republicans in the letter which asks for information to Energy and Commerce regarding the overall response and the actions they are taking to address the various hazards resulting from the derailment.
According to a news release from the congressional committee, members asked Ohio EPA Director Anne M. Vogel and Pennsylvania DEP Acting Secretary Richard Negrin to provide the following information:
- A timeline of all the events related to the train’s derailment in East Palestine, including releases of any chemical substances caused by the accident, response actions taken to address various hazards presented by the derailment, and testing of air, water, or soil for contamination related to derailment.
- Details for all the chemical substances that were being transported on the train and their quantities.
- Who is overseeing this response and the details of Ohio EPA’s and Pennsylvania DEP’s work with Federal, state, and local officials, as well as any non-government entities.
- All the parties – and their jurisdiction – that Ohio EPA’s and Pennsylvania DEP’s have been coordinating with in responding to the derailment, in containing any pollutants, or in testing or monitoring pollutants in the environment.
- Any information that Ohio EPA’s and Pennsylvania DEP’s have regarding the “controlled burn,” including the reasons for that action, who made the decision to take that action, and any resulting environmental impacts from that “controlled burn,” such as airborne emissions.
- The results of environmental testing in the area and any detections above threshold levels.
- Information regarding water and air testing, members requested confirmation that these tests are being performed, who is leading it—and whether private contractors are being used—and the results of those tests.
- Information on efforts being undertaken by Ohio EPA, Pennsylvania DEP, and other state agencies help residents of the affected community understand the risks currently present to them so they are comfortable making decisions about returning to their homes.
- Information regarding the specific legal authority Ohio EPA and Pennsylvania DEP are using to respond to the issues involved with the derailment.
The Biden administration is defending its response to the derailment, saying within about two hours of Norfolk Southern notifying them of the derailment, the EPA and Department of Transportation were on the scene in East Palestine.
According to the White House, President Biden reached out to Governors DeWine and Shapiro soon after the train derailed to offer additional federal assistance, and keeping members of Congress and state and local leaders updated on response efforts.
The White House says that at Governor DeWine’s request and President Biden’s direction, Federal teams are in East Palestine – investigating the cause of the derailment, ordering Norfolk Southern clean up the derailment and reimburse families, conducting public health screenings, monitoring the air and water, and screening more than 550 homes.
The EPA is organizing a town hall at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 at East Palestine High School to discuss remediation efforts.