NTSB Hearing Eve - The Vent and Burn in East Palestine

Norfolk Southern has some 'splainin to do.

Jun 22, 2023

John’s Journal


This one is going to be the quickest and dirtiest.

First of all, thank you so much to the paid subs of this newsletter. If you’ve noticed I’ve been gone for a while, it’s because of several major life events happening all at once (in a good way), but mainly because I fell down a rabbit hole of about twenty hours worth of hearings and testimony about the Norfolk Southern disaster in East Palestine.

This is a quick update that I wanted to get out before the NTSB hearings tomorrow. There’s still so much we don’t know, but more questions pop up around the official story each day. It’s time to tune back in for a bit.

Give the video a watch for a sub-5-minute recap on what we know about the vent and burn, and stay tuned for the next couple of weeks as we get more answers from the NTSB investigation.

Love ya bye.

Video Transcript

00:00:00:00 - 00:00:03:19

Speaker 1

We’re about to find out more on the Norfolk Southern disaster in East Palestine.

00:00:03:19 - 00:00:11:20

Speaker 1

The NTSB is holding hearings in town tomorrow and Friday. So we're going to recap what we know and what the public deserves to know from hearings like this.

00:00:11:20 - 00:00:14:15

Speaker 1

There’s a lot to tackle. So this video is going to be about the vent and burn.

00:00:14:15 - 00:00:15:10

Speaker 1

Norfolk Southern’s story so far is that there was no other choice but to

00:00:18:11 - 00:00:22:01

Speaker 1

detonate five cars of vinyl chloride. And here's why they say that

00:00:22:01 - 00:00:39:03

Speaker 1

vinyl chloride is unstable. It needs to remain cool during transport. If it heats up, it starts to polymerize. That's a chemical reaction that happens because of heat and that generates more heat. So at a certain point, the reaction generates enough of its own heat to keep reacting and run away.

00:00:39:10 - 00:00:47:05

Speaker 1

And at that point, explosion is a risk. And that's why Norfolk Southern says that the only option was to blow up the cars before they blew themselves up.

00:00:47:05 - 00:01:00:00

Speaker 1

But how do we know that all five cars were heating up in at risk of explosion? Right now, Norfolk Southern's word is all that we have and the testimony from experts and the timeline doesn't look good for their story.

00:01:00:00 - 00:01:15:17

Speaker 1

The temperature inside one of the tank cars was increasing, which could result in a catastrophic explosion. The critical point is 180 degrees. And at the time one of the cars was reading 140 degrees.

00:01:15:17 - 00:01:20:01

Speaker 1

That's Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the NTSB, with the strongest point in Norfolk Southern's favor.

00:01:20:01 - 00:01:30:08

Speaker 1

They learned that a single car was heating up on the evening of Sunday, the fifth after the fire that broke out on the third was put out. But what about the other four cars that were detonated?

00:01:30:08 - 00:01:46:10

Speaker 9

there's some increasing pressure on that car that they're concerned about, potentially increasing temperature on that car. There are four other cars. One has a a higher temperature. But the pressure or the pressure relief device is working as it should?

00:01:46:12 - 00:02:11:03

Speaker 9

And there are three other cars that we are told that are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no signs that they are polymerizing. There's nothing else that is concerning at that point in time. The game plan at that point in time that is relayed to us and the plan of action is that if the car does not, catalysts officially fail overnight that at 12:00 the following day they will conduct a vent and burn operation on that one car.

00:02:11:03 - 00:02:19:15

Speaker 1

That's Randy Padfield. He's a 9/11 first responder who's now the director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. And he was in the room as it all unfolded

00:02:19:15 - 00:02:27:07

Speaker 1

on Sunday night, the fifth. The plan was to only burn one car because the others were either venting properly or not heating up.

00:02:27:07 - 00:02:39:01

Speaker 1

Then the day of the burn arrives. Monday, the sixth. And everything changes. Hours before the plan to burn a single car. Norfolk Southern suddenly insists on burning all five.

00:02:39:01 - 00:02:48:27

Speaker 1

the decision to go from the one tank car to the five was jaw dropping. And that impact just because of the impact it had.

00:02:48:27 - 00:02:57:09

Speaker 9

we're trying to figure out what changed overnight that we went from one car to five cars and why the abrupt change?

00:02:57:09 - 00:03:13:02

Speaker 9

because the way it was presented to him is that all five cars could catastrophically fail. So we ask the rail company Norfolk Southern has their individuals, their say what other alternative plans have you thought through at that point in time?

00:03:13:02 - 00:03:23:14

Speaker 9

We are told by Norfolk Southern that they are the experts. They have over 200 years of experience on the scene in their personnel doing this, and this is the only option.

00:03:23:14 - 00:03:29:20

Speaker 1

The new plan creates chaos and takes unified command back to square one. Hours before the burn,

00:03:29:20 - 00:03:41:07

Speaker 1

Ohio's National Guard was modeling the burn. They recommended reconsidering the modeling and evacuation zone for the now 885,000 pounds of vinyl chloride to be burned.

00:03:41:09 - 00:03:50:16

Speaker 1

But ultimately, everything stayed the same, and nearly 1,000,000 pounds of vinyl chloride went up in smoke. And that doesn't sit well with some experts.

00:03:50:16 - 00:03:58:05

Speaker 2

if I were a railroad and I was looking for the quickest way to clean up a mess and get my rail back together, I got burning some chemicals into the air.

00:03:58:05 - 00:04:11:17

Speaker 2

Certainly seems like it's going to be the quickest avenue to do that. Not accusing them of anything at this point. But what I'm saying is, if you're going to take the fastest rail and they proved that they were in a hurry to get their tracks back up and running, you burn that chemical off.

00:04:11:17 - 00:04:17:11

Speaker 1

The public deserves to know why Norfolk Southern made the decision to blow up all five cars.

00:04:17:11 - 00:04:21:24

Speaker 1

Show me. Prove it to me. I think we all need to be in Missouri mode. Prove it,