Today, U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) made the opening statement and questioned witnesses during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
In his remarks, Mullin, the Ranking Member of the Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Subcommittee, highlighted the need for immediate clarity and assurance to the public in the wake of this tragedy. Mullin outlined serious questions that must be addressed regarding what caused the train derailment and additionally, questioned the response plan for East Palestine so residents to get their lives back on track.
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Remarks as delivered:
“I want to thank everyone, including our five panelists and Senators Brown, Vance, and Casey, for attending this hearing. The people of East Palestine have shown perseverance and bravery during this time and are understandably anxious and upset.
In the aftermath of the derailment, the decision was made to burn hazardous chemicals leaking from the rail cars out of fear of an explosion. Since then, residents have reported headaches, coughing, fatigue, irritation, pain, and a burning sensation on the skin. People in East Palestine now fear for their health despite the EPA saying there is no health risk.
The public’s trust in government is near record lows, only 20 percent say they trust the government to do the right thing.
After the last three years it’s no wonder that residents are calling into question the response and advice of government bureaucrats.
The mixed messaging from this administration in the days and weeks after this tragedy has only added fuel to the fire. Actions have consequences.
Both the Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of the EPA’s delayed visit to East Palestine says enough about where their priorities stand. Once they arrived, they pedaled lies about deregulation under the previous administration rather than taking responsibility for their delay.
In contrast, I applaud the timely on-the-ground response efforts from local residents and first responders. The people of Ohio have truly come together to help their neighbors in their time of need. In Oklahoma, we call that the ‘Oklahoma Standard.’
Moving forward, today’s hearing allows our witnesses to provide much-needed clarity and assurance to the public. If we are going to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, we need to know what caused it. There are serious questions that need to be addressed such as:
- The states that toxic waste is being shipped to;
- How long the chemicals were sitting in the cars;
- If the bearings were appropriately re-inspected;
- Why the administration and Norfolk failed to provide accurate and timely information to local authorities.
And finally, what we are going to do about the town moving forward. The residents, understandably, do not feel safe and we need a plan to get their lives back on track.
I expect our witnesses to transparently discuss these issues so we can prevent future tragedies from occurring. Leaders take responsibility, they don’t point fingers and dodge responsibility. The people of East Palestine need to see the administration and Norfolk [Southern] take responsibility and show results.”