Pete Buttigieg revealed Tuesday he will go to East Palestine, Ohio after intense backlash ensued when he did not visit – and President Joe Biden instead headed for Ukraine in the aftermath of a train derailment releasing hazardous materials in the community.
East Palestine’s mayor, Trent Conaway, tore into President Joe Biden’s trip to Ukraine in the midst of the derailment, claiming his refusal to focus on domestic issues and instead parade around in the war-torn Eastern European country was a ‘slap in the face.’
Buttigieg, however, downplayed the need for an administration official to come survey the damage and visit the community disrupted by the toxic derailment.
He also suggested that former President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to Ohio on Wednesday is just a photo-op as part of his 2024 campaign again bidding to take the helm at the White House.
The derailment on February 3 spewed toxic chemicals into the community and caused residents to complain of headaches and other symptoms.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday morning that he will finally visit the site of the train derailment that released hazardous material into East Palestine, Ohio earlier this month
The intense crash spewed toxic chemicals into the air, ground and water and has led nearby residents to complain of headaches and other symptoms. East Palestine was evacuated two days after the derailment
Buttigieg suggested that former President Donald Trump’s upcoming trip to Ohio on Wednesday is just a photo-op
Transportation Secretary Buttigieg said that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency which is responsible for investigating civil transportation accidents, should be able to work independently to address the mishap without his presence.
‘I am planning to go and our folks were on the ground from the first hours,’ he insisted to Good Morning America on Tuesday when asked why he has not visited East Palestine in the 18 days since the derailment.
He did not give a timeline for when he will make it to the ground of the disaster.
Buttigieg has called for higher maximum fines for railroad safety breaches but has yet to pay a visit to the small town still reeling from the aftermath of toxic chemicals infiltrating the air, ground and water.
He wrote a letter on Sunday to the president and CEO of Norfolk Southern, which owns and operates the train that derailed carrying the hazardous material.
‘Norfolk Southern must live up to its commitments to the people of East Palestine,’ Buttigieg wrote in a Monday Instagram post along with images of the letter.
‘And as USDOT continues to do our own work, I wrote NS to make expectations clear: industry’s pattern of resistance to safety regulations must change,’ he continued.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway said he is ‘furious’ that President Joe Biden took a trip to Ukraine before visiting the site of the Ohio train derailment – calling the move a ‘slap in the face’
Biden made an unannounced trip to Kyiv for five hours on Monday to mark the one-year anniversary since Russia invaded the Eastern European nation. Pictured: Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday as they visit the Walk of the Brave in Constitution Square
Biden has not, however, visited East Palestine, Ohio in the aftermath of a massive train derailment that released toxic chemicals into the community on February 3
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan was on the ground in the Ohio-Pennsylvania border last week, 13 days after a Norfolk Southern train veered off-track on February 3.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an evacuation order February 5.
‘I do want to stress that the NTSB needs to be able to do its work independently,’ he added in his GMA interview. ‘But when I go the focus is going to be on action.’
Mayor Conaway has a different view, claiming that Biden visiting Ukraine before coming to his city to assess the damage and speak with the community about what could help make them whole shows that his priorities lie overseas and not at home.
‘That was the biggest slap in the face,’ Conaway told Fox News Monday night. ‘That tells you right now he doesn’t care about us.’
‘He can send every agency he wants to, but I found that out this morning in one of the briefings that he was in Ukraine giving millions of dollars to people over there and not to us and I’m furious,’ the mayor added.
‘On President’s Day in our country he’s over in Ukraine – so that tells you what kind of guy he is.’
Buttigieg, who was once mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the administration only wants to conduct meaningful trips.
‘Look, I was mayor of my hometown for eight years,’ Buttigieg noted in his interview with Good Morning America host George Stephanapoulos. ‘We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human.’
Buttigieg posted to his official Instagram account on Tuesday a letter he sent to Norfolk Southern demanding it ‘live up to its commitments to the people of East Palestine’ after its train crashed and released hazardous materials into the community
‘One of the things I noticed very quickly is that there’s two kinds of people who show up when you have that kind of disaster experience – people who are there because they have a specific job to do and are there to get something done and people who are there to look good and have their picture taken,’ he noted.
Trump announced last week that he will visit East Palestine, Ohio on Wednesday to speak with the community and its leaders following the derailment.
‘When I go it will be about action on rail safety, like the actions that we are calling on Congress to help us with, that we’re calling on industry to take and that we are undertaking ourselves as a department to help make sure these kinds of things don’t happen in the future.
Buttigieg announced he will visit the crash site more than two weeks after the derailment and following a flurry of pressure from politicians for the Transportation head to survey the damage.
Ohio GOP Rep. Warren Davidson on Friday called for Buttigieg’s impeachment over the matter.
‘I hope [Buttigieg] does resign, and if he doesn’t, you know, there’s a long list of impeachment criteria,’ the lawmaker said to conservative outlet Real America’s Voice. ‘I never would have thought we’d see a point where we need to impeach a secretary of Transportation, but daggone, how many failures have to happen on his watch before we call it?’
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is also among those who called on Buttigieg to step down, amid complaints about the pace of federal resources.
Under fire, the Biden Administration on Friday organized a briefing to defend the response, but without allowing officials to speak on the record.
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