GOP Sen. Capito: 'EPA failed' in response to toxic Ohio train derailment

"Personally, I think the EPA failed on the risk communication," Sen. Moore Capito said.

Published: March 9, 2023 10:04am

Updated: March 9, 2023 12:44pm

GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Thursday in a high-profile Senate hearing on the Ohio train derailment that the Environmental Protection Agency "failed" in its communications with the public in the aftermath. 

"Personally, I think the EPA failed on the risk communication," she said in the opening of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. "We are going to ask why did it take the EPA administrator three weeks before he actually drank the water. He was telling everybody that it was safe. Why did it take a month to establish a response center?"

The hearing is the first Congress has held on the Norfolk Southern train derailment since it occurred last month in East Palestine, Ohio.

About 38 of the train's roughly 158 freight cars went off the tracks Feb. 3, including some holding such toxic chemicals as vinyl chloride. The train smoldered for days and continued to leak chemicals until at least some were siphoned off and ignited to avoid an explosion – sending a plume of chemicals into the air. 

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw apologizing in his testimony.

"I want to begin today by expressing how deeply sorry I am for the impact this has had on the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding communities," Shaw said. “I am determined to make this right.”

Committee member Ohio Republican Sen. J.D. Vance slammed the EPA during the hearing, saying the agency is "making it harder" to move toxic materials out of the area into properly licensed facilities.

Capito, after she was informed that the material was not leaving the area, pressed Regional EPA Administrator Debra Shore about the issue.

Shore said the material is being moved off-site to EPA-approved facilities.

Shaw, who assumed the role of CEO 10 months ago, said his company is committed to staying in East Palestine for "as long as it takes" to clean up the area. 

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