A Congressman representing East Palestine, Ohio is slamming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after he shifted a portion of the blame for a derailed train carrying toxic chemicals to the Trump administration as well as Congress.
Buttigieg said on Tuesday that his agency has been ‘constrained’ by the Trump administration, stating that the Department of Transportation in 2018 withdrew a proposed rule that would require trains carrying some dangerous chemicals to use electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
At the time, the Department of Transportation said that the technology’s benefits weren’t conclusive.
‘We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe,’ Buttigieg tweeted.
Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, fired back in a statement to Fox News Digital saying that he’s going to stay focused on the concerns of East Palestine residents rather than playing the ‘blame game.’
‘If someone wants to play the blame game now, that’s their decision, but I’m going to stay focused on the residents of East Palestine and the tasks at hand,’ Johnson said. ‘Right now, I’m focused on making sure the residents of East Palestine are safe, secure, get the help they need, and have their questions answered. The ongoing cleanup efforts must be completed, and the ongoing air and water testing must continue. Right now, we need to let the investigators with the NTSB do their job and determine the cause of this crash.’
On Wednesday, Johnson invited Buttigieg to the scheduled town hall in East Palestine at 7 p.m.
‘@SecretaryPete, hope to see you tonight at the town hall in #EastPalestine. I’ll save a seat for you. It’s past time you hear the concerns of residents affected by the train derailment,’ Johnson said.
A train with 50 rail cars, 10 of which were carrying vinyl chloride, derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3. The derailment caused hazardous chemicals to spill onto the ground and sent a plume of smoke into the air.
A controlled release of chemicals was conducted in the days after the derailment because of the risk of a major explosion, officials said. Residents were evacuated before the controlled release was performed.
While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio officials said that both the air and water in East Palestine are safe, residents are reporting various health issues.
East Palestine residents Nathan Izotic and his wife Kelly said on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ that they are experiencing the chemical’s impacts first-hand.
‘We are seeing them locally and inside of our bodies. What we’re experiencing- local fish in our creeks have died….oily sheens and coloration in our water….[the] constant smell of burning plastics and chemicals in the air…issues with our dog…vomiting, acting lethargic. It’s scary stuff here,’ Izotic said.
Nathan Velez, another resident of East Palestine, said that he’s experienced persistent headaches.
‘My house is just across the tracks … and it smells, too. You can’t spend a lot of time here without feeling like crap,’ he said. ‘And my question is why, if it’s okay if it’s safe, and all these people say it’s safe, if it’s so safe and okay then why does it hurt?’
A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told Fox News Digital that ‘[Federal Railroad Adminisrtration] and [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] staff were on the ground within hours of the derailment and the EPA Regional Administrator and EPA Administrator are visiting. [National Transportation Safety Board] is the lead investigator and DOT is in a supporting role.
Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and Ashley Carnahan contributed to this report.