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Biden Official Sets Record Straight After Buttigieg Blames Donald Trump for Ohio Train Disaster

A Biden official on Thursday called out Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for spreading “misinformation” about his dodging of responsibility for the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio and his blame of former President Donald Trump.

Buttigieg claimed on Tuesday he is “constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation” and then cited a “braking rule” that was removed in 2018 during the Trump administration.

“We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe,” Buttigieg claimed.

But National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy retorted on Twitter: “PLEASE STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION” about the cause of the train disaster.

She blasted the claim as “misinformation” and directly addressed the ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brake rule.

“That leads me to my last point: anyone speculating about what happened, didn’t happen, or should’ve happened is misleading a suffering community – PLEASE STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION. For example… Some are saying the ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brake rule, if implemented, would’ve prevented this derailment. FALSE.”

The NTSB Chair explained that “The ECP braking rule would’ve applied ONLY to HIGH HAZARD FLAMMABLE TRAINS,” and that “the train that derailed in East Palestine was a MIXED FREIGHT TRAIN containing only 3 placarded Class 3 flammable liquids cars.”

“This means even if the rule had gone into effect, this train wouldn’t have had ECP brakes,” Homendy stated.

Homendy expanded on the reason that blaming the removal of the brake rule under the Trump administration was a false narrative.

Homendy added that “nothing is more important than accuracy at a moment like this,” and that “anyone speculating about what happened, didn’t happen, or should’ve happened is misleading a suffering community.”

On Thursday, Norfolk Southern said the train “was not considered a high-hazard flammable train.”

Thus, even if the rule mandating ECP brakes were to have gone into effect, it would not have necessarily applied to the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine.

Norfolk Southern is owned by a number of major investment firms, including BlackRock, Vanguard, and JP Morgan Chase. In 2017, the rail company successfully lobbied the U.S. government to do away with mandatory safety regulations, such as pneumatic brakes and minimum staffing requirements. The rail company had recently lobbied the government to maintain these lax safety regulations.

“Before this weekend’s fiery Norfolk Southern train derailment prompted emergency evacuations in Ohio, the company helped kill a federal safety rule aimed at upgrading the rail industry’s Civil War-era braking systems,” according to documents reviewed by The Lever. According to the report, the train was not being regulated as a “high-hazard flammable train.”

At the same time as it was lobbying for the lax safety rules, Norfolk Southern paid executives millions and spent billions on stock buybacks, even as it shed thousands of employees despite warnings that understaffing would increase safety risks. Norfolk Southern officials also fought off a shareholder initiative that would have required executives to “assess, review, and mitigate risks of hazardous material transportation.”

The Biden administration on Thursday rejected Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s request for emergency aid to deal with the ecological disaster ensuing from the Norfolk Southern train derailment.


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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.