A Norfolk Southern train derailed in the midwestern town on February 3rd, discharging toxic chemicals into the air. Many Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, used this as a way to connect with the general public and undermine Joe Biden's visit to war-torn Ukraine.
However, once Trump arrived at the village on Wednesday, many wondered how this disaster happened and how preventable it was.
Trump said: "We're standing in America. Unfortunately, as you know, in too many cases, your goodness and perseverance were met with indifference and betrayal in some cases."
President Biden tweeted a day after Trump visited Ohio: "For years, elected officials – including the last admin – have limited our ability to implement and strengthen rail safety measures. Heck, many of the elected officials pointing fingers right now want to dismantle the EPA – the agency that is making sure this clean up happens."
The President added, "Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it's worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill – it's years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost."
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talked to the media on Monday, stating, "A lot of the folks who seem to find political opportunity there are among those who sided with the industry repeatedly. They have fought safety regulations on trains and hazmat tooth and nail."
He did not name Trump, but it was enough to make people question what Trump did during his four years in office to prevent such disasters from happening.
While several Republicans tried to minimize Buttigieg's statement, many remained quiet.
Andrew Bates, White House spokesperson, called out the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress for "selling (East Palestine) out to rail industry lobbyists."
He tweeted, "The Obama administration had pushed for it to govern the transportation of hazardous materials after about a half a million barrels of crude were dumped, but ultimately the Trump administration undid that and said the costs exceeded the benefits."
The Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan, redefined the Endangered Species Act, lifted oil and natural gas extraction bans, weakened the Coal Ash Rule that regulates the disposal of toxic coal waste, revised Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, etc. Overall around 100 environmental policies were changed.
Trump withdrew from a proposal that would have set minimum requirements for the size of train crew staff. Forbes reported that he authorized trains to carry liquefied natural gas per demand by the rail lobby.
This begs the question, was this a political move by the former President, guilt, or something else?
Even before the visit, Trump said during a meeting in Florida that people were "abandoned" in East Palestine.
Also read: 21 of the Biggest Lies in American History
However, all this placing blame does not mean that the accident could have been prevented. National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said earlier this month that even with Obama's regulation, the train was a "mixed freight train." The proposal only covered "high-hazard flammable trains."
What started as a human tragedy ended up being a Twitter war between the two biggest parties in the US.
In the meantime, New Yorkers are fighting against another potential disaster. The owner of the decommissioned Indian Point nuclear facility said it plans to dump around a million gallons of radioactive water in the Hudson River as soon as August.
The tragedy in Ohio, once again, opened the question of Trump's dedication to the environment. In 2020, he said, "I'm an environmentalist. I am. I want the cleanest water on the planet. I want the cleanest air anywhere."
In 2018, he stated, "I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax."
In 2013, he tweeted, "We should be focused on magnificently clean and healthy air and not distracted by the expensive hoax that is global warming!"
So, what do you think about Trump's visit to East Palestine? What about his dedication to the environment? And revisiting regulations?
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