WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his opening statement at today’s full committee hearing titled the “Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment,” Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed the derailment of the Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine and the unanswered questions in the aftermath of the accident.
Sen. Cruz’s opening remarks as delivered:
“Thank you to the witnesses for being here today. Welcome Senator Brown.
“Like so many other Americans, I watched with dismay the horror that unfolded in East Palestine, Ohio.
“On television, we saw a fiery train wreck, where nearby residents were understandably fearful that their water was poisoned, and their air was polluted. The distress of East Palestinians residence was real then, and it’s real now. Miss Allison, thank you for being here and testifying today.
“That’s why it’s important that we’re holding this hearing. This hearing will address two critical topics first, what can be done to prevent derailments like the one that occurred in East Palestine? Second, what can be done more broadly to improve the safety of trains transporting hazardous materials? While these topics are related, and each topic I think merits its own hearing, it appears this morning may be our only opportunity as a full committee to examine the East Palestine derailment and the broader questions about railroad safety policy.
“To be clear, I agree with Senators Brown and Vance that railroad safety should be on our agenda. And, that it is an opportunity for real and meaningful bipartisan cooperation.
“My team and I will continue engaging with their staff and with the chairwoman’s staff and I’m optimistic that we can achieve broad agreement on policies that improve safety that protect our communities, without at the same time damaging our supply chain or imposing unreasonable costs that would ultimately harm American families we need to do both.
“Today we need to hear what led to the derailment in East Palestine. The NTSB has launched an investigation and I appreciate Chairwoman Homendy’s appearance here today.
“This committee is also looking very closely at this derailment. For as much as we know about the derailment, key questions remain unanswered. For example, who specifically made the decision to vent and burn the vinyl chloride from all five derailed tank cars and what were alternatives considered? Were the right people consulted?
“I also want to know what can be done to prevent or to mitigate similar derailments in the future. This committee should hear more about wayside detectors and advanced technologies that could use algorithms and trending analysis to identify potential safety issues earlier. We should hear more about the information available to first responders and about the coordination with shippers of hazardous materials.
“Understandably, Americans across the country share the concerns of the residents of East Palestine and wonder, ‘Are essential hazardous materials being transported safely? Will residents be protected if a spill occurs?’
“Unfortunately, the delayed and disjointed response by the Biden administration has not allayed these concerns. Notably, we heard calls from residents of East Palestine in the local school asking, “Where is Pete Buttigieg?” The response from East Palestine’s Mayor, Trent Conway, was quote, ‘I don’t know.’
“It took Secretary Buttigieg 10 days to even acknowledge the derailment. After he was called out, he did a 180 and tried to sell a slew of big government regulatory proposals, desperate to disguise the failure of the administration to act sooner.
“For example, Secretary Buttigieg has proposed reinstating a brake rule that was not supported by cost benefit analysis. Shortly thereafter, the chairwoman of the NTSB, Chairwoman Homendy, tweeted about this rule. She said quote, ‘Some are saying the ECP electronically controlled pneumatic brake rule, if implemented, would have prevented this derailment. False.’
“She proceeded to explain the proposed brake rule would not have applied to the East Palestine train and would not have prevented the derailment even if it had.
“Undeterred, Secretary Buttigieg then released a laundry list of regulatory proposals, many of which had little to no connection to the East Palestine derailment. In an effort to further distract from his own failed response, Secretary Buttigieg has suggested that President Trump was responsible for the derailment in East Palestine. I know that’s a frequent playbook of this administration blaming every problem on President Trump, but not even the Washington Post fact checker – who usually goes out of his way to back Democrat claims – bought this claim.
“The Washington Post fact checker concluded, and I quote, “From our analysis, none of the regulatory changes made during the Trump administration at this point can be cited as contributing to the accident.”
“In contrast to Secretary Buttigieg, our colleague on this committee, Senator Vance has kept his focus where it should be — on the people affected by the derailment. I applaud him and I applaud Senator Brown for focusing on their constituents and I look forward to continuing to work closely with both of you and with the chairwoman on a bipartisan serious rail safety package.”