What is Michele Jansen doing in Beaver County? 

March 27 – Some people might wonder why events on the other side of the state could affect those of us in Franklin County, but you might be surprised how closely we are all linked. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM is in Beaver County, PA, with State Senator Dough Mastriano to talk about the train derailment in Ohio that happened a little more than a year ago. 

Jansen recalled, “A Norfolk Southern train had an issue. They determined I think that it was overheating parts of the brake system and they attempted to stop the train. One of the cars derailed, which derailed some more of them. There were very dangerous chemicals being transported on five I believe of the cars. They didn’t quite know what to do when this stuff started heating up and they were afraid of an explosion. There was a determination to do a controlled burn of these substances, the vinyl chloride that was aboard those cars. That’s a very toxic substance. There has been a lot of fallout about whether that was the right decision or how much the air, the water, the soil had been contaminated. There was the response by the federal government, some say which wasn’t enough. There was the response by Norfolk Southern, some say which was not enough. Of course, Senator Mastriano is part of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee. So it is their job and the job of the other Senators on this committee to be up front on these issues to see what can be done.”

The derailment happened at the PA/Ohio border in East Palestine, Ohio and a lot of Pennsylvanians were affected. 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “You’ve got rail lines that go right through downtown Chambersburg and Greencastle and that strip of rail that goes through our area and it’s always one that is on my mind. I love the train and the transit but also, obviously as all residents would be concerned if well what happens if this happens in our neck of the woods? It’s good to have a state Senator making that trip and then what’s going to happen today at these hearings? Let’s understand what is going to happen at these hearings and is anything going to really come of it? Listening, very good. Learning, great, but how is the impact for these individuals that are affected by it in Pennsylvania?”

Jansen noted, “They did have a hearing a year ago I think on the 23rd of February. Senator Mastriano headed that up as far as the state team. They had Shapiro officials there. They had Norfolk Southern officials there. But not the president. That was a big stink at the time. We do have to look at this impact because I think about what happened just the day before today. The disaster in Baltimore highlights how you never know. People might say, well that’s the other side of the state, what do I care? Disasters can happen anywhere. It could happen in Chambersburg. It could happen in Shippensburg. It could happen in Waynesboro. We have to look at how these people have been treated by the federal, state, local and then governments and the companies or responsible individuals for these disasters. So looking at how this has happened in East Palestine and on the other side of the Pennsylvania border, it could happen anywhere. So we need to be conscious of what is happening and the attention these folks are getting.”

The hearings today will be about the residents and how their lives have been impacted by the derailment. 

Jansen said, “We’re going to have seven or eight different residents formally speak about their experiences here, including a physician who’s been following his patients in the area and been a big champion for helping to monitor the water and the soil. There are residents who are now displaced and what has happened to them. There are residents whose houses will not sell now and who have businesses that have been impacted, their animals that have been impacted, their families that have been impacted, their livelihoods that have been impacted. So we want to hear from all these individuals, how they’ve been treated, what help they have or have not received so we can monitor this and follow this and make sure that things that were promised these people are being fulfilled and make sure if there’s things that have not happened for these people that should, we can get that information moving forward so that the state government officials and others can then hopefully make some impact on these people’s lives where they have not been helped.”

Ryan predicted, “I’m sure they’re all going to have remarks when it comes to the response from Washington, from this president, and what their takeaways are on that. There were plenty of people in the communities saying ‘ not now and you’re too late for your appearance here, Mr. President.’”

Jansen said, “That was one of the huge complaints that they didn’t seem to be cared about by this president or the federal government. I know that’s what some of the residents have said. Besides Senator Mastriano, we are scheduled to have Senator Elder Vogel, who is the Senator for this area. This is Darlington Township in Beaver County, the northwest corner of Beaver County, where this is happening at the Darlington Volunteer Fire Department. We are also possibly going to have Senator Brooks and Senator Dush who also sit on that committee with Doug. We’ll have Senator Lindsey Williams also speaking I believe. So these will be the people that will speak out from the state government but as I said the primary focus is on these residents. These folks were, I believe, all listened to a year ago. So getting the follow up from them on what has happened with them will be critically important to see whether the obligations to these people have been met.”