EXCLUSIVE: A pair of Indiana Republican lawmakers demanded answers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the shipments of hazardous materials from East Palestine, Ohio, to other Midwestern states.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Indiana Republicans Sen. Mike Braun and Rep. Jim Baird expressed concern about the ongoing process of transporting the materials, contaminated from the early February train derailment in eastern Ohio, to specialized facilities in Michigan and their home state.
‘I am opposed to the transfer of hazardous materials from the East Palestine train derailment into Indiana,’ Braun said in a statement to Fox News Digital. ‘The Biden EPA and Transportation Department have mishandled this disaster from day one. Any material from this disaster being transferred to Indiana overseen by this Biden EPA is seriously concerning. Hoosiers’ safety is my top priority.’
Braun and Baird also noted in their letter that the EPA has appeared to listen to Democratic lawmakers while ignoring Republicans weighing in on the issue.
For example, on Feb. 25 — one day after state and federal officials announced they would transport hazardous materials collected in East Palestine to a facility in Michigan — the EPA abruptly halted the shipments. The decision to suddenly pause the shipments came a mere 30 minutes after Democratic Michigan Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell held a press conference demanding the Biden administration stop sending toxic materials to their state.
‘They told us there were five trucks that came today from Ohio that they have 99 percent water and one percent the vinyl chloride. And that going forward all of it is on pause and another site is likely to be found,’ Dingell said.
‘No one deserves this in their backyard,’ added Tlaib, according to local outlet MLive.
Braun and Baird stated that they were concerned the EPA’s decision was ultimately made ‘in response to objections from elected officials in Michigan’ and not as a safety consideration.
Two days after pausing hazardous shipments, the EPA announced it had selected two facilities — located in Grafton, Ohio and Roachdale, Indiana — to house the materials from East Palestine. While the agency said it would notify local officials before moving forward with the shipments, the Republican lawmakers said such officials have suggested the opposite.
‘This does not appear to have been the case in Indiana,’ Braun and Baird wrote. ‘In fact, in his statement on February 28, Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb explained that he learned about the decision to transport contaminated materials to Roachdale ‘third-hand.’’
‘Governor Holcomb has also noted his continued objection to the decision and concerns with the ‘lack of communication’ between EPA and Indiana elected officials,’ they continued.
They concluded, saying they were certain officials at the Roachdale facility would be able to handle the materials, but adding that they have ‘heard from Hoosiers who share our concerns about how EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Norfolk Southern have handled the cleanup following the East Palestine derailment.’
‘Specifically, our constituents have requested increased oversight because they share our concerns about the decision to transport contaminated materials to the Roachdale, Indiana facility,’ the lawmakers wrote before firing off multiple questions to the EPA administrator.
On Feb. 3, about 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train carrying vinyl chloride, a dangerous colorless gas, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, a small community that is located along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
The company opted to release the gas from the derailed cars, releasing potentially deadly fumes and other dangerous chemicals into the air, to prevent a disastrous explosion. Local residents were told to evacuate the area during the release, but were assured it was safe to return on Feb. 9.
The EPA did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.