By Tyler Wood

Fifty train cars derailed in East Palestine, a small town in Ohio, USA, of less than 5,000 people, not to be confused with eastern Palestine, the geographical area of the widely unrecognized nation, on February 3. These cars were carrying extremely hazardous chemicals which have now spilled into the local environment, most notable of which is Vinyl Chloride, a chemical which is toxic, carcinogenic, flammable, and primarily used in the production of plastics. This caused officials to issue an evacuation to those within a “one-by-two-mile area” around East Palestine, which lasted two days. The environmental protection agency (EPA) declared on February 14 that the air around the area was tested and is now considered completely safe, however testing on the ground water contamination is ongoing. (https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/statement-regional-administrator-debra-shore-east-palestine-train-derailment)

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Some residents are still skeptical of the EPA’s verdict however, NPR reporters interviewing residents found many who still smelled chemicals, felt eye irritation, had headaches, and had nausea. (https://www.npr.org/2023/02/16/1157333630/east-palestine-ohio-train-derailment) What’s more, a reporter was arrested during a press conference covering the event, allegedly for being ”too loud”, however charges of “trespassing” and “resisting arrest” were later dropped as Attorney General Dave Yost would iterate “The reporter was lawfully present at a press conference called by the Governor of the state. His conduct was consistent with the purpose of the event and his role as a reporter.” (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/charges-dropped-against-newsnation-reporter_n_63edb5f2e4b07f036ba159bf)

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Though the arrest was likely a mistake, when combined with American officials’ recent history of denying or failing to fix ecological disasters, particularly in the Midwest (see Flint, Michigan for example) has many people angry and skeptical. This week there have also been similar though smaller incidents near Detroit, in Texas and in South Carolina. The trains that derailed in Ohio and near Detroit were both operated by Norfolk Southern, which is currently facing a variety of legal difficulties. (https://redstate.com/nick-arama/2023/02/16/breaking-another-train-derailment-in-mi-reportedly-with-hazardous-materials-n704598)

Some are pointing fingers at the government, the trump administration in particular withdrew regulations put in place by the Obama administration which may have required that the trains be fitted with more effective breaks. When interviewed by the Independent, residents were largely defensive of ex-president Trump in spite of the repealed regulation and its correlation to lobbying from large rail corporations. (https://www.levernews.com/rail-companies-blocked-safety-rules-before-ohio-derailment/) (https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/trump-train-ohio-derailment-biden-b2284499.html)

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