Skip to main content
Press Release Published: Feb 24, 2023

Oversight Republicans Launch Investigation into DOT Secretary Buttigieg’s Failure to Promptly Respond to Ohio’s Train Derailment Catastrophe   

Call on DOT to be transparent and provide all documents and communications related to the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment

WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Committee Republicans launched an investigation into U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s failure to promptly respond to the train derailment catastrophe in East Palestine, Ohio and ensuing environmental and public health emergency. Oversight Republican lawmakers are concerned by DOT’s slow pace to resolve the ongoing emergency and are requesting all documents and information related to the train detrainment.         

“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating the ongoing crisis that began on February 3, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio. A Norfolk Southern freight train’s derailment and the ensuing response released highly toxic chemical materials into the air, water, and soil—forcing residents of East Palestine to evacuate. This incident is an environmental and public health emergency that now threatens Americans across state lines,” wrote the Republican lawmakers. “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.”

Following the derailment, crews held a controlled release and burn of the toxic chemicals—including the explosive and carcinogenic vinyl chloride—carried in the railcars. Some of these chemicals may still be present in the area, with residents reporting dead animals, strong odors, burning sensations, rashes, and watery eyes. The fallout from the Ohio train derailment continues to develop.

“One hazardous materials specialist explained, ‘We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.’ As Secretary of Transportation, you must provide transparency to the American public on this matter. Instead, you have attempted to blame others for infrastructure that is within DOT’s ambit of responsibilities,” continued the Republican lawmakers. “Under your leadership, DOT supported President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, which included billions of dollars devoted to revamping America’s railways in an effort to make them safer and more efficient. Yet America now faces one of transportation’s largest failures, even while DOT seems to not lack available funding.”

To assist the Committee’s investigation into the train derailment in Ohio, the Republican lawmakers are seeking all documents and information related to DOT’s response to the catastrophe.  

Read the letter to Secretary Buttigieg here.