Train Carrying Hazardous Materials Derails in Michigan, as Senators Seek Answers from Sec. Buttigieg on Ohio Derailment

On Thursday morning, a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in Michigan, a day after Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg demanding an explanation of what caused a train derailment in Ohio, which released hazardous materials, causing citizens to evacuate.

Local Detroit station WXYZ reports that at least six trains cars derailed in the Van Buren Township – one of which contained hazardous cargo. The EPA has, reportedly, dispatched a team to assess and address any potential threat.

On Wednesday, Senators Rubio and Vance sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, questioning whether adequate staffing could have prevented the East Palestine, Ohio derailment’s environmental catastrophe.

At issue is the rail company’s use of a cost-cutting practice called “precision-scheduled railroading” (PSR), which employs fewer workers to move more freight, the senators write:

“Current and former rail workers, industry observers, and reform advocates have pointed to precision-scheduled railroading (PSR), by which rail companies such as Norfolk Southern increase efficiency and drive down costs by moving more freight with fewer workers, as a potential contributor to the accident. We have voiced concerns with PSR, as well as with this administration’s prioritizing of efficiency over resilience in its national infrastructure and transportation systems.”

“By that token, it is not unreasonable to ask whether a crew of two rail workers, plus one trainee, is able to effectively monitor 150 cars,” the senators tell Sen. Buttigieg, noting that PSR has resulting in rail companies cutting a third of their work forces.


Vinyl chloride was among the hazardous materials unleashed on citizens by the derailment, a substance that, according to The Ohio Star, is highly toxic – and was even weaponized by the Germans in World War I:

“Exposure to vinyl chloride may cause an elevated risk of lung, brain, and a rare type of liver cancer. When burned it releases hydrogen chloride and the poisonous gas phosgene, which Germans used as a weapon in World War I.”

In addition to vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and isobutylene were also aboard the derailed trains, The Star reports.


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