The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has dismissed claims by senior officials in the Biden administration that deregulation efforts by former President Donald Trump were to blame for a recent train derailment and chemical fallout in East Palestine, Ohio. Local and state authorities evacuated residents within a mile of the incident, which involved the emission of vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen, from five train cars. However, following a brief evacuation, residents in the area were allowed to return, and were told that essentials such as water in the area were safe to be utilized again – a claim that was rightfully met with skepticism.
The Biden administration has accused Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration of wrongdoing, asserting that they “sold out” East Palestine to rail industry lobbyists and should apologize. Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates made these claims in a statement provided to The Hill, also suggesting that a braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 could have prevented the incident.
“…owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists.”
However, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy has argued that the rule would not have applied to the type of train involved in the derailment, which was classified as a “mixed freight train,” therefore, Trump’s decision to do away with specific train legislation in 2018 would’ve likely had no affect on the incident.
Criticism has been directed at the Biden administration for its handling of the train derailment incident, especially since Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg only acknowledged it publicly ten days later. In contrast, former President Donald Trump visited East Palestine, Ohio before any Biden administration representative did, distributing thousands of Trump-branded water bottles, cleaning supplies, and other essentials during his visit. Additionally, Trump concluded his trip by buying McDonald’s meals for the crowd and handing out MAGA hats, which some saw as a prelude to his previously announced 2024 presidential campaign.