House Republicans have planned hearings to investigate the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which caused a chemical fallout that threatened the health and well-being of residents.
Axios reported on Sunday that the hearings would include a possible field hearing where lawmakers could hear directly from the residents of the small town.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider probes into the federal agencies charged with handling the incident. Furthermore, House Oversight and Accountability Chair James Comer sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg requesting transparency and documentation of the incident.
“Our focus will be to examine the local, state and federal response in the immediate aftermath of the train derailment and the ongoing efforts to clean up toxic chemicals in the surrounding environment,” said lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee who have already scheduled a hearing on the crisis.
Rep. Bill Johnson, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, invited Buttigieg to a town hall event with the constituents. “I’ll save a seat for you,” he told Buttigieg on social media. “It’s past time you hear the concerns of residents.”
The train derailment resulted in the emission of vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen used to manufacture PVC. The vehicle contained five train cars, and a controlled burn of industrial chemicals was executed on the train to minimize the risk of an explosion.
Reports from Democrat-aligned media outlets suggest that the train derailment could have been avoided if former President Donald Trump had not reversed a federal mandate about electronically controlled pneumatic train braking systems, as claimed by Biden administration officials.
The claim has been refuted by the head of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who called it “misinformation,” as reported by Rebel News.
Authorities from the NTSB said in a preliminary report that a malfunctioning rail car axle was responsible for the disaster. Governor Mike DeWine has claimed that the vehicle was “not considered a ‘high hazardous material’ train,” and the railroad was not required to notify anyone in Ohio about what was in the railcars.
East Palestine residents could potentially face long-term health complications due to prolonged exposure to toxic substances, despite officials’ assurances that the air and water in the town are safe.
Researchers from Texas A&M University and Carnegie Mellon University found that nine of the approximately 50 chemicals present in the derailed train have higher concentrations than normal in the affected location. They expressed concerns about above-normal levels of acrolein, which is highly toxic when inhaled, according to the CDC.