WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg vowed his department will work with the administration and Congress to prevent future disasters like the Feb. 3 train derailment that led to the release of toxic chemicals during a visit to East Palestine, Ohio, on Thursday.
“The best way to deal with an environmental disaster is to prevent it from happening in the first place, and that’s a big part of my department,” Buttigieg said at a press conference, where the Department of Transportation laid out the measures. The central government wants to take over the Congress and the railways.
“I want them to know they’re not alone. They’ll have support before, during and after the national spotlight. They’re going to have support from us when Norfolk Southern takes over,” he said, referring to residents of eastern Palestine. They will have EPA’s support when it comes to ensuring that they receive accurate information about soil protection.”
The secretary’s visit came weeks after the derailment and Republican calls for his resignation. Buttigieg took aim at those lawmakers during his trip, telling a press conference that those playing “political games” are those who side with the railroads in watering down government regulations.
Butijiek called on former President Donald Trump, who visited the region on Wednesday, saying Trump could help the region by expressing support for “reversing the restrictions that have taken place under his watch.” He is referring to 2017 Suspension Trains carrying flammable liquids must be equipped Faster brakes.
“I heard him say it had nothing to do with him, even though it was in his administration,” Buttigieg said. “Maybe he’ll come out and say he supports going in a different direction.”
Buttigieg met with community members, received an update from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the disaster, and heard from Department of Transportation investigators who were on the ground in the hours after the derailment.
Asked by a reporter if he waited a week and a half to tweet about the derailment, Buttigieg said he should have responded sooner.
“I’ve taken pains to respect the role I have and the role I don’t have,” Buttigieg said. “But that shouldn’t stop me from weighing in on how I feel about what’s happening to this community.”
Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown joined ButiGeek during the visit.
The trip coincided with the NTSB’s release Initial report Thursday about its investigation into the derailment, which involved railroad company Norfolk Southern. Find a train wreck Overheated wheel bearing It was 253 degrees above the air temperature, the report said.
The NTSB said its investigation is ongoing and officials continue to focus on the wheelset and bearings; Tank Car Design; rail damage; Review of accident response including venting and burning of chemicals; as well as Norfolk Southern’s inspection practices.
Senate staffers will be briefed by the relevant agencies later Thursday on the Ohio disaster, trade committee spokeswoman Tricia Enright told NBC News. Staff will hear from the Environmental Protection Agency, the NTSB, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It’s unclear if any senators will be in attendance, as many are in their home states on recess or on foreign trips.
Buttigieg on Tuesday laid out a series of steps the administration, the rail industry and Congress could take immediately to increase rail safety nationwide, including allowing the Department of Transportation to “issue more severe penalties for rail safety,” the department said. Regulatory violations and revising the rail industry’s timeline for using more robust rail cars carrying hazardous materials.”
The secretary has directed Federal Railroad Administration employees to “expedite work on a final rule requiring a minimum of two crew members on trains, which has long been opposed by the railroad industry and some members of Congress,” the department said.
After the train derailment, Republicans called for Buttigieg’s resignation, saying he was slow to react to the disaster. Boutique He tweeted that Last week, his department’s ability to regulate the rail system was “restricted by law” because of the braking rule revoked by the Trump administration.
“I’m happy to discuss the timing of our Ohio trip — but some in Washington think it should be the main focus so there aren’t too many questions about rail safety regulation, who’s for it and who’s against it. We’ll hold the line on rail safety and accountability,” Butygeek said. He tweeted that Wednesday night.
In a statement Wednesday, a Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the timing of Buttigieg’s visit marked the EPA’s “move out of the emergency response phase and into the long-term remediation phase.”
The White House tried to pin the blame for the leak on Republicans and Trump.
“Congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials should apologize for selling out East Palestine to rail industry lobbyists while Obama-Biden dismantled rail safety protections and EPA powers,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates.