East Palestine field hearing postponed: Rep. Johnson
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio () — The House East Palestine field hearing for Friday has been postponed due to the House floor schedule, a spokesperson for Rep. Bill Johnson announced Thursday.

“It is not happening. The field hearing is postponed because of the House floor schedule,” Johnson’s communications director Benjamin Keeler said.

The field hearing was scheduled for Friday but was postponed due to the House’s busy schedule, where lawmakers are working to avoid a government shutdown.

Johnson, the Environment, Manufacturing, and Critical Materials Subcommittee Chair, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair, were invited to testify at the field hearing in East Palestine.

Lawmakers at the hearing were going to assess the cleanup progress following the February train derailment and chemical spill in the Ohio city.

It is unknown when the field hearing will be rescheduled for.

East Palestine residents have been asking the federal government for assistance since the wreck. For months, residents have brought up concerns about toxic chemicals in the environment and contamination that has been affecting the community’s health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it’s safe to return, but independent testing results have offered conflicting results.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Wednesday to protect East Palestine residents and hold railroad operator Norfolk Southern accountable for the derailment.

The order is meant “to ensure that Norfolk Southern continues to be held accountable for this disaster, to address any of the disaster’s long-term effects, and to ensure federal assistance is available to affected communities should needs develop that are not met by Norfolk Southern,” the White House said.

Biden directed FEMA to designate a Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator to oversee long-term recovery efforts. He also announced new steps to ensure Norfolk Southern continues meeting “its obligations to the community.”

He’s also asked for a report on the status of air, soil and water monitoring within the next 30 days.

“Moving forward, EPA will provide the President with an updated report every 60 days until all cleanup, assessment, and monitoring work required by EPA’s Order has been completed,” the White House said.

Biden did not, however, approve a major disaster declaration that was requested by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this year. It’s been one of the main demands from residents who say the federal government isn’t doing enough to help them.

Instead, the White House will hold open the request while the other reviews are conducted.

Johnson has criticized the federal government’s response, saying the Biden administration has been dragging its feet from the start.

“I’m not gonna hold my breath,” Johnson said of a potential Biden visit. “He’s promised before, and he didn’t keep the promise the first time.”

So far, Biden has failed to keep his word to visit the site of the disaster.

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