The House Oversight Committee has initiated an investigation into the Department of Transportation's response to the derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this month.
The majority of the committee's Republican members, led by chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY), demanded that the department provide the committee with documents regarding the trainwreck, according to a report by Breitbart News.
According to the report, the committee is also asking for communications related to the cause of the train wreck, the timeline of when Buttigieg learned of it, and any guidance he received on how to respond to it, as they laid out in a letter to DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg,
The Republicans on the committee also accused the department's leadership of demonstrating apathy in the aftermath of the disastrous derailment, which resulted in a fiery crash of train cars carrying carcinogenic vinyl chloride and other hazardous materials.
Despite the evacuation of the area, concerns remain high among residents about the possibility of exposure to toxic air or contaminated water.
The state and federal Environmental Protection Agencies are continuing to test the region and release updates.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported that roughly 40,000 dead fish, mostly small minnows, were found in an affected five-mile waterway in the immediate aftermath of the wreck, according to the lawmaker's communique.
The letter stated, "The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released preliminary information on the derailment Thursday but said its investigation remains ongoing."
The Republicans stated that currently, hazardous chemicals might still exist in the region, and they pointed out that residents have reported dead animals, strong odors, burning sensations, rashes, and watery eyes:
“As Secretary of Transportation, you must provide transparency to the American public on this matter,” the lawmakers continued.
“Instead, you have attempted to blame others for infrastructure that is within DOT’s ambit of responsibilities. … America now faces one of transportation’s largest failures, even while DOT seems to not lack available funding.”
On Thursday, Buttigieg made his first visit to East Palestine, one day after former President Donald Trump's appearance in the small town to meet with residents and first responders and raise awareness of the area's needs.
Buttigieg has faced criticism and scrutiny over the incident, primarily from Republicans but also from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). During a press conference on his visit, Buttigieg stated that residents were "getting pretty sick of the politics."
“I’m here for the work and not for the politics,” Buttigieg said. “You can sense when you talk to local leaders and local residents that they’re getting pretty sick of the politics too and this national ideological layer that’s been added into all this when they’re just trying to figure out if they’re going to be safe.”