EAST PALESTINE, (WKBN) – We have heard from many lawmakers over the past two weeks in connection to the train derailment in East Palestine, but the nation’s transportation secretary has been relatively quiet until now.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has been active on Twitter this week talking about East Palestine.
In an exchange with U.S Rep. Ilhan Omar and Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the three are in agreement to take “immediate steps” to address rail safety following the derailment.
Buttigieg said that he is happy to see the bipartisan agreement and says the discussion should center around reducing “constraints on the USDOT in this area.” He called on both to “give him a call.”
Buttiegeg also said on Twitter that the FRA is currently reviewing a rule that would require a minimum of a two-person train crew. He also pushed some blame for safety issues on the Trump Administration.
“We’re constrained by law on some areas of retail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump Administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using powers we do have to keep people safe,” Buttigieg said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation wrote in 2017 that it rescinded the idea of mandating ECPs for the following reason:
“This determination was made with congressionally-mandated input from the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) and studies by the FRA, which found that the cost-benefit analyses are not sufficient justification for mandating ECP brakes.,” regulators wrote.
Ohio Senator JD Vance said Thursday during a press conference in East Palestine that Buttigieg can do something now to address the issue.
“I haven’t spoken to President Biden, but my message to him is pretty clear. The Department of Transportation – you’re Department of Transportation – has things it can do. Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help the people in this community.”
Omar said that the East Palestine derailment will have a “significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades, and there is almost no national media attention.”
There have been national media reports about the derailment that have run on all three major networks and cable news.
“We need Congressional inquiry and direct action by Pete Guttigieg to address this tragedy,” she said.
Cruz posted “fully agree.”
On Wednesday, a bipartisan effort was made by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; JD Vance, R-Ohio; Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania and John Fetterman, D-Pennsylvania with a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan expressing their concerns about the derailment and the controlled release of vinyl chloride.
Regan is making a visit to East Palestine Thursday.
Buttigieg said that he is concerned about the impacts of the derailment and will use all the information from the investigations into the incident to “ensure accountability and continue to support safety.”
The final reports from the NTSB on the derailment could take several months or years. In a 2012 derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey involving a vinyl chloride release, the NTSB did not issue its report until 2014.