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NTSB releases preliminary report in East Palestine train derailment

Wreckage from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment is seen on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Wreckage from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment is seen on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its preliminary report in the derailment of a freight train in East Palestine earlier this month.

The report points to a dangerously overheated wheel bearing on the Norfolk-Southern train. According to the report, the overheating triggered an alarm and the engineer then applied the brakes. But, the NTSB says, when the crew left the train to inspect the wheel bearing there was already fire and smoke indicating a derailment. Thirty-eight cars derailed on February 3, including 11 carrying hazardous chemicals.

The NTSB is still investigating and says this report is not the definitive explanation for what happened.

The ongoing concerns about the long-term health and environmental effects of the derailment as well as criticism over the government response became more politicized this week. Former President Trump visited the site and blamed the Biden administration . The White House in turn says the loosening of rail safety measures under the previous administration caused the disaster.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency visited East Palestine this week. The EPA has ordered Norfolk-Southern to handle all aspects of the clean-up including removing and safely disposing all contaminated soil and water from the area.

A Strongsville lawmaker has withdrawn a controversial amendment to Ohio’s transportation budget that would have prevented a bike lane project planned for Cleveland from going forward. Republican state Representative Tom Patton proposed the amendment to block cities from adding bike lanes in the middle of a street or highway. He says critics of the plan expressed safety concerns. Cleveland currently has in the works the Midway project which would put a raised bike lane in the center of Superior Avenue. The project is fully funded.

Will data be the key to shaping policy to address gun violence and other health issues facing Northeast Ohio? The Center for Health Affairs bills itself as the leading advocate and collective voice for Northeast Ohio’s hospitals over the last century. It is teaming with Amazon Web services to create a “data lake” also known as the Social Determinants of Health Innovation Hub.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose this week unveiled legislation he says would help address the distrust in elections. He introduced DATA: that stands for the Data Analysis Transparency Archive Act. It is sponsored by Republican State Senator Theresa Gavarone. It codifies definitions for election data terms and standardizes them across all 88 counties. The bill also establishes a new analytics office under the secretary of state. Also, this week, LaRose announced more than 120,000 inactive voters had been removed from Ohio’s election rolls.

-Stephanie Czekalinski, Deputy Editor for Engaged Journalism, Ideastream Public Media -Gabriel Kramer, Reporter, Ideastream Public Media
- Karen Kasler, Statehouse News Bureau Chief, Ohio Public Radio/TV

Leigh Barr is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and the "Sound of Ideas Reporters Roundtable."