As residents in East Palestine, Ohio, attempted to comprehend the magnitude of a toxic chemical burn that followed a train derailment earlier this year, many accused the Biden administration — and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg specifically — of providing no real information or assistance.
— Jennie Taer (@JennieSTaer) February 22, 2023
This week, Buttigieg seemed to admit that some of that criticism is valid, though he nevertheless claimed that the Department of Transportation did respond quickly to the disaster.
“To be clear, our department was on the ground within hours helping with the response and the investigation,” he said in an interview with Nexstar TV, insisting that “we have been on the ground literally from day one to make sure that we’re doing our part to support.”
He went on to acknowledge that he “could have spoken out sooner” and vowed to ensure “that we are focused on the actions that are going to make a difference.”
In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Buttigieg asserted that he is “planning to go” to East Palestine, insisting that his “focus is going to be on action” upon arriving on the scene.
Of course, plenty of local residents and state leaders are wondering what took him so long to prioritize action.
“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 that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future,” he added.
President Joe Biden has also received significant backlash for refusing to visit East Palestine, especially in light of his surprise trip to Ukraine.
“That was the biggest slap in the face that tells you right now, he doesn’t care about us,” said East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway on Monday. “So … he can send every agency he wants to but I found that out this morning and one of the briefings that he was in the Ukraine giving millions of dollars away to people over there, not to us and I’m furious.”
Highlighting the Biden administration’s muted reaction to the train derailment, 2024 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his intention to visit East Palestine this week.