Ohio Senate sets hearing on toxic train derailment to hear from state officials
The Republican leader of the Ohio Senate says a hearing will be held on Wednesday on the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, to hear from Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio EPA director and other state officials.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the scope of the environmental damage after the derailment is unclear, so he wants a forum on what information is known now.
"We want everyone to get the facts in a public way so that the local media can examine those. I know that sometimes things get said on a national scale which may or may not be correct," Huffman told reporters. "So if we have that in an open public hearing, I think it'll be beneficial for everybody."
And Huffman said the hearing will help state lawmakers get information too as they consider the two-year budget that's currently in the House Finance Committee.
"I think it makes sense to consider what happened in this. It's not just East Palestine. There are other villages involved. We don't yet know the scope of the environmental damage," Huffman said. "I think certainly by the operating budget time, we'll have a better idea. Next week's hearing might just be a kind of a first step as we gather information about that."
An announcement from the Ohio Senate said the hearing will be held on Wednesday at 2:30pm. It'll be chaired by Sen. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and the vice-chair will be Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem), who represents the district that includes East Palestine.
A requirement to maintain two-person crews and other train-related proposals have been added to the state transportation budget. But Huffman said many regulations on trains relate to interstate commerce, which is a federal issue - so they can’t be changed by state lawmakers. But he said some things can be, like grade crossings and oversight of trains by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.