EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Members of a congressional committee announced they are investigating Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation for their response to the East Palestine train derailment.
On Friday, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer and Committee Republicans sent a letter to Buttigieg to announce their investigation.
According to the press release, Republicans on the Oversight and Accountability Committee are concerned with how long it took for Buttigieg to respond to the derailment.
“Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation’s responsibility to ensure safe and reliable transport in the United States, you ignored the catastrophe for over a week. The American people deserve answers as to what caused the derailment, and DOT needs to provide an explanation for its leadership’s apathy in the face of this emergency,” said Republican lawmakers in the letter.
As the fallout from the derailment continues to develop, the committee is questioning the decision to release and burn chemicals, including vinyl chloride.
“One hazardous materials specialist explained, ‘We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.’ As Secretary of Transportation, you [Buttigieg] must provide transparency to the American public on this matter,” wrote the Republican lawmakers.
The committee also spoke on the National Transportation Board’s (NTSB) report that failed to name a specific cause for the derailment. The Republican lawmakers, however, incorrectly labelled the NTSB as part of the Department of Transportation.
Pete Buttigieg tweeted a response to the letter Friday afternoon.
Buttigieg visited East Palestine for the first time Thursday.
While there, he was asked if he should have come to East Palestine sooner, he said he held off in the initial stages to let investigators do their work. He said he still considering if that was the right decision.
“I was taking pains to respect the role that I have and the role that I don’t have, but that should not have stopped me from weighing in about how I felt about what was happening to this community,” he said. “I’m thinking about whether I got that balance right.”
To assist the Oversight and Accountability Committee’s investigation into the train derailment, the Republican lawmakers also asked for all the documents regarding the train derailment and the Department of Transportation’s response.