March 31, 2023

LEADERSHIP: Biden administration makes community safety priority #1 in derailment probe

Biden administration makes community safety priority #1 in derailment probe

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The Biden-Harris administration is spearheading a bi-partisan effort to help the residents of East Palestine, Ohio in the aftermath of one of the region’s worst environmental disasters in recent history.

President Biden reached out to Governors Mike DeWine (R-OH), and Josh Shapiro (D-PA) to offer federal assistance as the Environmental Protection Agency sends officials to the area to aid relief efforts.

Thousands of residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border were displaced after a commercial train run by Norfolk Southern derailed with toxic chemicals on board on February 3rd — prompting concerns of contamination due to the burnoff.

“When these incidents happen, you need to let the emergency response take place,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Friday.

The Biden Administrations spokesperson defended the President’s actions.

“We did take action and folks were on the ground,” Jean-Pierre added.

The Biden-appointed head of the EPA, Michael Regan, traveled to Ohio to get a handle on the damage facing the approximately 4,000 residents of the northeastern Ohio town where over 1 million lbs of the chemicals vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate were spilled.

“We’re testing everything that was on that train. We feel comfortable that we are casting a net wide enough to present a picture that will protect the community,” the EPA Administrator said.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan in East Palestine, Ohio

In a joint effort, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deployed “teams of medical personnel and toxicologists to conduct public health testing and assessments,” the White House wrote.

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“The team will support Federal, state, and local officials already on the ground to evaluate individuals who were exposed or potentially exposed to chemicals and help ensure timely communications to the public.”

Within hours of the disaster, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), arrived on site — taking the investigative lead and working closely with the Department of Transportation to probe the causes of the accident.

The Biden Administration and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg were criticized by right-wing politicians and media immediately following the incident.

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Republicans seized the opportunity to place blame on Democrats for the disaster while deflecting from the role that the previous president, Donald Trump, had in further deregulation of an industry already lacking proper oversight.

Conservative pundits and politicians accused President Biden and Secretary of Butitigieg of failing to do enough to prevent it while placing blame in the exact opposite direction of where it belongs.

After nearly two weeks, Gov. DeWine finally submitted a request for additional support from the federal government — giving the Federal Emergency Management Administration authority to move in.

According to the White House, officials from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) were on hand to assess the danger of the chemical exposure to the residents and the environment.

The Administration is committed to prioritizing clean up of the East Palestine area – including monitoring air quality, screening residents’ homes, and making sure that clean drinking water is available and safe for consumption.

Making sure that Norfolk Southern is held accountable and adhering to safety regulations is at the top of the list of duties in now faces.

The Environmental Protection Agency has gotten the railway company to commit to covering the cost to clean up the areas affected by the derailment, the White House wrote.

Obama-era policies aimed at increasing oversight and regulation of the railway industry were rolled by by his successor. Complaints that Norfolk Southern and other industry leaders failed to adhere to safety protocols previously fell on deaf ears.

As train derailments have become an increasingly avoidable problem over the past decade, President Bident seems poised to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for its failure to protect their employees and the American people.

Regan assured the American public of the federal government’s commitment to insuring that Ohioans have clean air and water.

“We know that there is a lack of trust,” Regan said, “which is why  the state and federal government has pledged to be very transparent.”

Nearly 500 homes have been tested for traces of the toxic chemicals.

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According to reports, levels were safe enough for residents to return, though those with private wells were told to drink bottled water until receiving results from water testing done by the Ohio EPA.

The current administration has been in constant contact with Ohio’s Republican governor. Biden continues to prove that he is a President for all Americans, regardless of who they voted for or which side of the aisle they fall on.

The Department of Transportation is investing $4 billion in discretionary grant programs designed to improve the safety of the nation’s railways.

Additional resources and training for first responders will give them the tools needed to react and respond effectively and efficiently in the unfortunate event of another disaster such as this.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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