Controlled burn, explosion weren’t necessary after East Palestine train derailment, NTSB chair says

WASHINGTON — NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy testified to Congress Wednesday that a controlled burn and explosion weren’t necessary after a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio in February 2023.

Homendy was questioned by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) in front of a senate committee.

Vance asked Homendy if the Norfolk Southern contractors at the scene lacked a scientific basis when a decision was made on the controlled explosion.

“Yes. In fact, they were informed by Oxy Vinyls of the information that should have been taken by the contractors in their decision-making,” Homendy said. “But yes, they did not have that. They lacked the scientific background to address that.”

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Homendy confirmed that ground crews were told to decide in 13 minutes on the controlled explosion, and no other opinions were offered.

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Homendy also testified that there was an option to let the chemicals cool down.

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“Rightfully, Norfolk Southern’s contractors had ruled out hot tapping and transloading because it would have been a potential safety issue for their employees, but there was another option: let it cool down,” Homendy said.

Homendy added that the chemicals were cooling down. She also said the temperature was stabilized hours before the burn and explosion.

“It was cooling down. We know for a fact that when that pressure relief device went off, that it had to have been above 185 degrees. Later, much later, over the course of 22 hours, that tank car was cooling,” she said.

Vance called this an “extraordinary finding.”

“This town very well may have been poisoned to facilitate the rapid movement of freight, or at the very least, it was poisoned for reasons that we can’t identify,” Vance said. “That should really concern every single person on this committee.”

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