Pete Buttigieg visits East Palestine 20 days after train derailment as he admits he should have spoken sooner

Mr Buttigieg visited the village the day after Donald Trump toured the crash site

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 23 February 2023 18:31 GMT
Related video: Trump tells people of East Palestine to ‘have a great time’ amid toxic train derailment

Pete Buttigieg is visiting East Palestine in Ohio 20 days after the train derailment that released hazardous chemicals, as he admits he should have spoken out sooner.

The train cars that derailed almost three weeks ago carried chemicals dangerous to both the environment and to people, such as vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene, CBS News noted.

The train company, Norfolk Southern, has said that the train was carrying at least 15,000 pounds of soil and 1.1 million gallons of water. Area residents have shared their outrage and frustration at the incident and at the response, specifically the federal government’s response time in providing health and humanitarian services.

The transportation secretary didn’t speak about the issue until 10 days after it occurred, something he now says should have been done more quickly.

“I was focused on just making sure that our folks on the ground were all set, but could have spoken sooner about how strongly I felt about this incident, and that’s a lesson learned for me,” he told CBS News on Tuesday.

On Thursday morning, Mr Buttigieg was on the scene of the derailment.

During his visit conservative media outlets swarmed him, with one activist from Turning Point USA asking if he would “apologise” for the “slow response” to East Palestine.

Department of Transportation officials were in the village the day the accident occurred, and have been active there since.

On Wednesday night, the secretary tweeted that he was “happy to discuss timing of our Ohio visit - but starting to think some in Washington want that to be the main focus so that there aren’t too many questions about rail safety regulation, who is for and who is against. We will hold the line on railroad safety and accountability”.

In one especially odd show of aisle-crossing, Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar demanded transparency and direct intervention in the derailment by Mr Buttigieg, and Mr Cruz said he “fully agreed.”

Mr Buttieig responded by reminding them that Congress was ultimately responsible for empowering federal agencies through legislation.

“Glad to see newfound bipartisan agreement here. We could start by discussing immediate steps Congress could take to address rail safety & reduce constraints on USDOT in this area. Give us a call, we can do some good work,” he replied.

Mr Buttigieg’s trip comes on the heels of Donald Trump’s visit to the village on Wednesday. The former president distributed water and cleaning supplies and used the backdrop of the frightened village to bound into the 2024 campaign season.

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