President Joe Biden’s administration rejected a request for federal disaster assistance from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in response to the train derailment in East Palestine earlier this month.
The derailment, which occurred on February 3, caused a fire that lasted several days. Officials decided to initiate a controlled release of the chemicals to mitigate the risk of an explosion; all residents within one mile of the crash site were told to evacuate, although they were permitted to return to their homes on February 8.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told Ohio that the Biden administration was rejecting its request for federal assistance because the agency said the incident did not qualify.
Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for DeWine, told Fox News that Ohio was able to get some assistance through the Department of Health and Human Services that can assist residents who need medical care as a result of the fallout from the derailment and toxic burn.
Tierney said that DeWine would hold Norfolk Southern, the company involved in the accident, responsible for what happened. “The people of East Palestine need to be made whole,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the DeWine administration put out a statement saying that the Biden administration was not cooperating with requests to help the community through federal disaster aid.
“The DeWine Administration has been in daily contact with FEMA to discuss the need for federal support, however FEMA continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time,” DeWine’s office said earlier in the day. “Governor DeWine will continue working with FEMA to determine what assistance can be provided.”
Norfolk Southern provided the EPA with a list of cars affected by the crash and the chemicals they were carrying. The company said all five cars containing vinyl chloride have been “stabilized” after the material was burned by crews, forming massive plumes of dark smoke that were visible in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Vinyl chloride is described by the National Cancer Institute as a carcinogen linked to a rare form of liver cancer called hepatic angiosarcoma, as well as lymphoma, leukemia, and various forms of brain and lung cancers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration only permits exposure of one part per million during an industrial worker’s eight-hour shift.
FEMA claimed in a statement to Fox News that it was in constant contact with DeWine’s office but it would not comment on its decision to reject disaster aid for the community.
“FEMA is in constant contact with the emergency operations center in East Palestine and with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency,” said FEMA spokesperson Jeremy Edwards. “We are closely coordinating with EPA, HHS, and the CDC, who are helping to test water and air quality, and to conduct public health assessments.”
Ben Zeisloft contributed to this report.