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President Biden to visit East Palestine a year after disastrous train derailment

Jan 31

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President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit East Palestine, Ohio, marking a year since a Norfolk Southern train derailment resulted in a toxic chemical spill. Biden’s visit comes amid criticism for not visiting sooner; he previously stated he would visit “at some point.” The White House confirmed Jan. 31 that his visit will take place in February, without offering specific details.

In February 2023, the train derailment caused a fire lasting several days, leading to the evacuation of thousands. Residents still continue to express concerns about the long-term impacts.

Over the past year, Biden has been involved in response efforts to disasters like floods on California’s central coast and wildfires in Hawaii, drawing attention to his absence in Ohio.

In a recent interview with Fox News, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, R, questioned Biden’s timing for the visit.

“My personal opinion, the best time for him to come would be February of 2025 when he is on his book tour,” Conaway said. “The president is always welcome to our town. That being said, I don’t know what he would do here now.”

While Biden has not yet visited, the administration maintains its response to the derailment was prompt and effective. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre emphasized the immediate federal assistance provided.

“From the moment — the day of the derailment… we’ve had federal assistance, federal employees on the ground within hours,” Jean-Pierre stated, citing involvement from the EPA, Department of Transportation, FEMA, HHS and CDC.

Although the East Palestine derailment was one of the worst in 2023, it was not the only one. The Federal Railroad Administration reported 1,136 derailments in the year, underscoring ongoing safety concerns for railways.

Concerns linger about potential health risks from chemicals spilled and vinyl chloride burned off after the crash. Vinyl chloride is a carcinogen linked to various cancers and is hazardous if inhaled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cleanup teams continue to remove hazardous waste from the site, with the EPA clearing about 80% of the area. Some contaminated water still shows an oily sheen, though no air contaminants were detected during clean-outs.

Norfolk Southern estimates the total cost for lawsuits, community assistance and hazardous waste removal to be around $800 million.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN WILL MAKE A CONTROVERSIAL VISIT to EAST PALESTINE, OHIO — ONE YEAR AFTER A DISASTROUS TRAIN DERAILMENT SPILLED TOXIC CHEMICALS IN THE AREA.

YOU’LL REMEMBER IN FEBRUARY 2023 A NORFOLK SOUTHERN TRAIN DERAILED – SPILLING CHEMICALS AND SPARKING A FIRE THAT LASTED FOR DAYS. THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS HAD TO BE EVACUATED AND MANY ARE STILL WORRIED ABOUT LASTING IMPACTS. 

PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS BEEN WIDELY CRITICIZED FOR NOT VISITING AFTER THE CRASH. AT THE TIME, HE SAID HE’D VISIT “AT SOME POINT.” THE WHITE HOUSE CONFIRMED WEDNESDAY, THAT POINT IS ONE YEAR AFTER THE FACT. 

IN THE PAST YEAR, BIDEN HAS RESPONDED TO FLOOD RECOVERY EFFORTS ON CALIFORNIA’S CENTRAL COAST AND POST-WILDFIRES IN HAWAII – DRAWING MORE ATTENTION TO HIS ABSENCE IN OHIO.

IN AN INTERVIEW WITH FOX NEWS AHEAD OF BIDEN’S VISIT — EAST PALESTINE MAYOR TRENT CONAWAY QUESTIONED THE PRESIDENT’S TIMING.

TRENT CONAWAY MAYOR, EAST PALESTINE, OH (R) 

“…my personal opinion, the best time for him to come would be February of 2025 when he is on his book tour. The President is always welcome to our town. That being said, I don’t know what he would do here now.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE ADMINISTRATION MAINTAINS THAT WHILE THE PRESIDENT HAS YET TO VISIT, THEIR RESPONSE TO THE DERAILMENT WAS TIMELY AND EFFECTIVE. 

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY 

“From the moment—the day of the derailment that we saw in East Palestine and what the community had to deal with, within hours—within hours, we’ve had federal assistance, federal employees on the ground—within hours. And that was because of this President—right?—because he understood what that community would be going through. So, he was—we were proactive. And we got folks there within hours. We’re talking about EPA, Department of Transportation, talking about FEMA, HHS, CDC. And we’ve been on the ground—folks have been on the ground since—that day—since that day.”

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

WHILE THIS DISASTER MAY BE ONE OF 20-23’S WORST DERAILMENTS — IT’S DEFINITELY NOT THE ONLY. 

THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION RELEASED A SAFETY REPORT SHOWING 11-HUNDRED-36 DOCUMENTED DERAILMENTS IN 20-23. THIS IS FAR BELOW AVERAGE, BUT STILL HIGHLIGHTS HOW DANGEROUS RAILWAYS CONTINUE TO BE. 

MEANWHILE, PEOPLE ARE STILL WORRIED ABOUT POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS FROM THE TOXIC CHEMICALS SPILLED AND THE VINYL CHLORIDE burned off SHORTLY AFTER THE CRASH. VINYL CHLORIDE, A CARCINOGEN LINKED TO THE LIVER, BRAIN, LUNG, AND BREAST, IS HAZARDOUS IF INHALED, ACCORDING TO THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY.

IT’S BEEN A YEAR, BUT CLEANUP TEAMS ARE *STILL REMOVING HAZARDOUS WASTE FROM THE SITE. THE E-P-A HAS CLEARED ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF THE AREA SO FAR. SOME OF THE CONTAMINATED WATER STILL HAS AN OILY SHEEN TO IT. THE E-P-A SAYS THEY DIDN’T DETECT ANY AIR CONTAMINANTS DURING ITS CLEANOUTS.

NORFOLK SOUTHERN ESTIMATES IT’S GOING TO COST ROUGHLY 800-MILLION DOLLARS TO PAY OUT LAWSUITS, HELP THE COMMUNITY, AND REMOVE HAZARDOUS WASTE.

 

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