Timing of J.D. Vance's Official Statement on Derailment Stirs Critics

Republican Ohio Senator J.D. Vance is facing pushback after releasing an official statement on the status of East Palestine 10 days after a train derailment triggered the release of hazardous materials.

Safety concerns remain elevated after a Norfolk Southern train transporting the materials derailed on February 3 near East Palestine, Ohio, sparking a major fire at the site. Out of fear that some of the toxic gases onboard could lead to a larger explosion, officials decided to conduct a controlled release of the materials, and residents were allowed to return home after chemical levels detected in the atmosphere returned to safe levels.

On Monday, Vance, a freshman senator, posted the statement regarding the derailment to his Twitter account, saying that he was "horrified" by the wreck.

Vance Receives Pushback on East Palestine Statement
Ohio Senator J.D. Vance arrives at a meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on November 16, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Vance released an official statement Monday regarding the lingering questions surrounding the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vance also said "many questions remain" regarding the safety and needs of residents as they return home to the eastern Ohio village.

"I am dedicated to ensuring that the relevant authorities do not use tests conducted as a permission slip to pack up and go home," Vance wrote. "This is a complex environmental disaster with impacts that may be difficult to assess in the short term. Long-term study will be imperative. As will long-term commitment to remediation by Norfolk Southern for the property damage, the wildlife disruption and the community scarred by this accident."

The release was met with backlash from some users on Twitter who pointed out that Vance was providing information almost two weeks after the train first derailed. Scott Stephenson, former Republican congressional candidate in the state of Washington, responded to Vance's release, "Where the hell have you been?!"

Christopher Hale, former Democratic congressional candidate for Tennessee, also responded, writing: "The accident happened [10] days ago, and this is your first public comment.

"In the mean time, you had time to tweet this prolific insight," Hale added, sharing a tweet from Vance last week regarding Taco Bell's new Mexican pizza dish, where the senator wrote, "The Mexican Pizza shows that America remains the most innovative country in the world."

Vance did, however, tweet on February 4, the day after the derailment, that his team was "monitoring this situation" at the crash site, adding, "Still a lot we don't know, but for now please pray for everyone's safety."

Vance's Ohio colleague, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, first tweeted about the derailment on February 6, three days after the crash, adding a "thank you to the first responders, local leaders, and [Ohio Emergency Management Agency] for their work to help the East Palestine community."

While Brown has not released an official statement from his office regarding the derailment, the senator also posted additional information on Twitter Monday afternoon regarding air-quality testing for East Palestine residents.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was also the center of backlash Monday for ignoring the train derailment while speaking at the National Association of Counties conference, where the secretary instead celebrated the infrastructure investments of President Joe Biden's administration.

Newsweek has reached out to Vance's office for comment.