U.S. Sen. JD Vance: Long-term commitment needed after derailment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

Like every Ohioan, I’m horrified by the Norfolk Southern train crash in East Palestine and the images we’ve seen coming from Northeast Ohio.

One week ago, local and state officials determined that to avoid a catastrophic explosion a controlled release of vinyl chloride would take place. This release is the source of the frightening plumes of black smoke that have made their way around social media.

While those plumes of smoke are now gone, many questions remain.

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Is the air and water safe for residents?

So far, we have been told that air and drinking water tests performed by the state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies, the Ohio National Guard and Norfolk Southern have been encouraging.

We continue to monitor environmental reports from multiple agencies about the quality of the air and water in the region. I have heard alarming anecdotes about contaminated waterways and effects on wildlife.

I encourage anyone with credible reports of environmental harms to contact my office. In the meantime, we will continue to engage with the relevant agencies and monitor the situation in the region.

What are the needs of people on the ground?

My office has been in constant contact with local officials, residents, and the governor’s office since the accident took place. The local fire department has borne the brunt of this catastrophe, and they need resources from FEMA to decontaminate equipment and ensure they continue to operate.

These firefighters deserve our gratitude for their heroism; they also deserve equipment they need for their jobs. My office will continue to work with FEMA to ensure these firefighters get what they need.

Local officials have also consistently encouraged me to ensure appropriate environmental testing continues. I am focused on that as well. My office will continue to engage with people on the ground, and deal with issues as they arise.

Why did this happen? After the cleanup and safety of everyone is ensured, we will turn our attention to how to prevent this in the future.

Many questions remain unanswered about the quality of the braking system used, the durability of the repair parts in the trains, and the Transportation Department’s regulatory approach to our nation’s rail system.

Aside from this incident, there is a troubling trend of catastrophic infrastructure problems in our country, and more than a few reports of sabotage. My office will be investigating these concerns in the weeks to come.

I am dedicated to ensuring that the relevant authorities do not use tests conducted as a permission slip to pack up and go home.

This is a complex environmental disaster with impacts that may be difficult to assess in the short term. Long-term study will be imperative.

As will long-term commitment to remediation by Norfolk Southern for the property damaged, the wildlife disrupted, and the community scarred by this accident.

As always, my office stands ready to aid constituents facing pressing needs in the wake of this disaster.

JD Vance is a Republican and the junior U.S. senator serving Ohio. His office can be reached at 202-224-3353.