BENSON: Answers in Ohio

by

Monday, March 13, 2023


The smoke “smelled like really, really strong paint thinner. And then his eyes turned like bloodshot, and he started coughing. And I was like, yes, we are leaving.” No, this is not a description of an explosion out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is something taking place in our own country – in East Palestine, Ohio. What is going on there? No one seems to know the answer, or at least, no government officials will tell us. What began several weeks ago as a train derailment is now an ecological disaster, as toxic chemicals have flooded into the air and water. Reports have included evacuations, headaches, an awful smell, sickness, dead animals, and who can forget, the ominous chemical cloud permeating the sky.

Even worse is the silence from our political officials and media. After the derailment first occurred on February 3, days went by without hearing anything from national media or public officials, but most especially from transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, who took ten days to respond.

Moreover, what is the reason for this silence? Is it merely just another failure that the government and its media apparatus do not want us to know about, or is it something much deeper? Even more, a journalist was even arrested while trying to cover the story. This was an embarrassing and serious disaster, and the lack of responsibility further damages the integrity and trust in our representatives. A recent poll found only nineteen percent of Americans would trust their political leaders to respond if a similar incident occurred. Such extensive damages and potential ecological consequences demand answers.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has called for accountability on the part of the train company, rather ironically saying that they will “hold their feet to the fire.” Rightly so, he also denounced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for initially denying Ohio’s request for aid. Furthermore, Ohio Senator JD Vance should be commended for calling out the Biden administration for deserting Ohioans in a time of grave need. Vance also visited East Palestine and worked with Florida Senator Marco Rubio to demand answers. However, serious questions need to be raised about how this derailment happened: Was the controlled burn of chemicals conducted properly, what could have been done to prevent this, and why a did a proper national response took so long?

What is more concerning than the derailment itself, however, is the potential long-term effects of the toxic chemicals. The other night, members of the East Palestine community gathered to ask questions and demand answers. So much information is still unknown, and all families of East Palestine are right to be angry and ask if it is still safe to live there, drink the water, and if the air is really clean. While officials lifted the evacuation order, it could take years to know the true scope of the damage, both to human beings and the environment. By then, the irreversible damage to human lives and health could already be done.

Moving forward, Congress must take steps to ensure this does not happen again. Regulations, oversight, and accountability will ensure that potentially hazardous cargo is properly transported. A good starting point would be looking at federal railroad safety standards and a requirement that states be notified when a train carrying hazardous chemicals is moving through them. Passing Senator Vance’s recently introduced Railway Safety Act will be a must. This comes especially as we hear more reports of other derailments (with another carrying toxic chemicals) and a large fire at a Florida warehouse. At a time when those in East Palestine, Ohio still feel unsafe and are drinking bottled water, we must not only sympathize and extend an outstretched arm to help their community, but drastic measures must be taken to get answers to what happened in East Palestine, Ohio.

William G. Benson is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America pursuing a degree in politics with a concentration in political theory. William is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The American Postliberal, a magazine of Catholic Political Realism. He has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Federalist, The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, and Crisis Magazine.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About William Benson

William G. Benson is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America pursuing a degree in politics with a concentration in political theory. William is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The American Postliberal, a magazine of Catholic Political Realism. He has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Federalist, The American Spectator, The Daily Caller, and Crisis Magazine.


williamgbenson on Instagram @williamgbenson

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