Last month, a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, with a population of less than 5,000, leaving chemicals spewing into the community’s environment. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that more than 43,000 fish and other aquatic animals were killed as a result.
In an exclusive interview with SiriusXM Patriot’s Breitbart News Saturday, Vance told Breitbart News Washington Bureau Chief Matt Boyle that it is paramount for the Republican Party to represent the interests of the residents of East Palestine, as opposed to the rail industry looking to avoid a public relations crisis and stricter federal oversight.
Developing Story - Trump administration oversaw a RADICAL change to the tech world… one that could unleash a huge wave prosperity… and wealth creation in the near future. Find Out More
“We just cannot forget about these people … this town is not cleaned up in the right amount of time and this is a disastrous failure of government, a disastrous failure of every institution in our country that should be looking after vulnerable people … they didn’t ask for this, it happened to them and they deserve to be made whole,” Vance said.
In particular, Vance noted that American taxpayers are the ones left paying for such a disaster caused by Norfolk Southern, a powerful rail company with massive influence in Washington, DC.
“We’re talking about the chemical spill but there are all these effects,” Vance said. “There are farmers who can’t sell their hay, can’t sell their chicken eggs because people are terrified that East Palestine is too contaminated. There are small businesses that are completely hemorrhaging.”
“Think of what happened during COVID but now it’s just one small town where everything just got shut down … there are people who still can’t return to their homes,” Vance continued. “A lot of that is going to fall on the American taxpayer through higher welfare payments, through people losing value on their homes … so if it’s going to fall on the American taxpayer, why should we allow any company to socialize that risk?”
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Vance, along with Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), has introduced legislation that would increase fines for rail companies that spur such problems in local communities.
Republicans, Vance said, should fall on the side of protecting their constituents from large companies like Norfolk Southern as opposed to representing the interests of companies who already have wide influence in D.C.
“When you cause a problem, you ought to pay for it,” Vance said of Norfolk Southern. “And unfortunately, in this particular type of disaster, the American taxpayer is going to pay for a big chunk of it. Whether we like it or not, that’s how it works in our current system.”
“When people are suffering, I think one of the core functions of the Republican Party should be to make sure that they’re made whole,” he continued. “And that’s something we have to stay on top of Norfolk Southern. Again, I have nothing against the company, but they caused this problem, and we have to make sure that they do right by the people of East Palestine.”
“We’re not trying to create a regulatory regime here but we do want the train [companies] to pay when they cause these problems, and I think that’s totally fair and appropriate,” Vance said.
Alana Mastrangelo/ Breitbart News
Vance’s legislation would also require rail companies to notify local firefighters and other first responders when hazardous chemicals are traveling through their communities.
“… the most important thing that it does is it gives our firefighters proper notice,” Vance said of his legislation. “The thing that happened in East Palestine … will continue to happen, because you have these train crashes with hazardous chemicals and these firefighters don’t know what’s on [the trains], because the train companies don’t have to give the local authorities proper notice about what’s going on.”
“Our legislation changes that, and I’ve heard from some establishment GOP-types that this is somehow a violation of the free market,” Vance said. “These railroad companies have gotten totally in bed with big government in a whole host of ways, but most recently, three months ago, they were bailed out by the government in the form of the feds, Joe Biden and others, coming in and settling the labor union issue that the railroads had.”
“You cannot tell me that this is the free market when you’ve gotten in bed with big government and are begging for big government privileges,” he continued. “… there is this slight of the old GOP that if you do anything to business, somehow that’s a violation of Republican principles, yet they need to wake up and realize, we’re on the side of the firefighters and police officers who are responding to these disasters — not the big train companies that have gotten in bed with the government and are causing them.”
The disaster in East Palestine is partially a failure of President Joe Biden’s administration, Vance said, noting that the president has refused to visit residents in the community, even as former President Trump went to the small town just weeks after the derailment.
“In East Palestine right now, there are thousands of tons of toxic dirt,” Vance said. “So from this train derailment, you had the chemicals seeping into the soil, so we have to dig that stuff out. You have contaminated soil and get it out of there to proper facilities and dispose of it. There are mounds of toxic dirt literally sitting on the ground of East Palestine, you know why? Because Joe Biden’s administration is making it harder to get that stuff to the proper disposal sites.”
“I’m not making this up. If you go to East Palestine, you will see these mounds of dirt right now,” Vance continued. “You have people who are terrified about the quality of the air, the quality of the water. Their town 36 days later has still not been cleaned up because of the failures of the leadership in the Biden administration.”
“They’re going to have long-term economic consequences because of this,” Vance said. “Think about what will happen to home values, property values, peoples’ mortgages, peoples’ small businesses if you have this chemical cloud go up in your town of 5,000 people. The effects are going to be big and we can’t ignore that and forget that.”
As Breitbart News has detailed, Norfolk Southern’s influence in Washington, DC is vast among both Republicans and Democrats.
Last year, political action committees (PACs) associated with Norfolk Southern donated nearly a million dollars to Republicans and Democrats as well as both parties’ leadership organizations, such as the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Norfolk Southern PACs also directly donated to Sens. Katie Britt (R-AL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Todd Young (R-IN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Boozman (R-KS), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), John Thune (R-SD), Rand Paul (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).