In an exclusive interview with The Ohio Star on Friday morning, Governor Mike DeWine‘s spokesman Dan Tierney said he was unaware that legal authority was required to execute the February 6 controlled burn of vinyl chloride from five carriages of the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3rd. He added that Norfolk Southern executed the controlled burn after consultation with representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and that DeWine agreed with the decision to execute a controlled burn – but was not the person who gave the order to execute the controlled burn.
When asked if he was familiar with the statement made on Stephen K. Bannon’s WarRoom by former acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Clark that the legal authority to execute the controlled burn was with the EPA on-site coordinator (OSC), Tierney said, “That is not inconsistent with what I understand happened.”
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spokesperson did not directly comment early Friday to The Star if such an officer may have recommended or authorized the controlled burn.
According to the EPA website, OSC’s are the federal officials responsible for monitoring or directing responses to all oil spills, and hazardous substance releases reported to the federal government. They would generally be present in a catastrophe such as the Norfolk Southern train derailment. OSCs coordinate all federal efforts and provide support and information to local, state, and regional response communities. In general, an OSC is responsible for the assessment, monitoring, response assistance, and evaluation of a hazardous substance release.
However, U.S. EPA Region 5 public information officer Allison Lippert told The Star on Friday morning that “EPA personnel” were dispatched to the scene immediately upon hearing of the incident.
“As soon as EPA was notified of the Norfolk Southern train derailment on Friday, February 3, EPA personnel were on-site by 2 a.m. Saturday morning to assist state and local authorities with response efforts. By the end of Saturday, February 4, EPA had mobilized 8 on-scene coordinators and 9 support contractors to work around the clock, leading robust air-quality testing in and around East Palestine. EPA also deployed its state-of-the-art ASPECT plane and brought in a mobile analytical laboratory to perform sample analysis on-site. As of Thursday, February 16, there are 6 EPA on-scene coordinators, and 16 EPA contractors in East Palestine, supported by dozens of agency scientists and other staff in EPA’s Region 3 and 5 offices and at EPA headquarters,” Lippert told The Star in an e-mail. ASPECT stands for Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology.