washington , Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, on Thursday to see the site of a recent train derailment that led to the release of toxic chemicals into the community.
Buttigieg is meeting with community members, getting an update from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation on the disaster, and hearing from Department of Transportation investigators who were on the ground in the hours following the February 3 derailment , the department said in a statement ahead of his visit.
Asked by a reporter on the ground Thursday whether he waited a week and a half to tweet about the train derailment, Buttigieg said he should have responded sooner.
“I was taking pains to honor the role that I have and the role that I don’t have,” Buttigieg said. “But that shouldn’t have stopped me from weighing in on how I felt about what was happening to this community.”
The department said Amit Bose, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Tristan Brown, Deputy Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, are joining Buttigieg during the trip.
The visit coincides with the release of the NTSB’s A. preliminary report Thursday about its investigation into the derailment, which involved rail company Norfolk Southern. The report states that rail accidents can be detected by wheel bearings heated to 253 degrees higher than the air temperature.
The NTSB said its investigation is ongoing and that authorities continue to focus on the wheelset and bearings; tank car design; derailment damage; accident response review, including evacuation and incineration of chemicals; as well as Norfolk Southern’s inspection practice.
Commerce Committee spokeswoman Tricia Enright told NBC News that Senate staffers will be briefed on the Ohio disaster by relevant agencies later Thursday. Staff will hear from the Environmental Protection Agency, the NTSB, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. It is unclear whether any senators will join their home states during recess or while traveling abroad.
Buttigieg laid out a number of actions Tuesday that he said the administration, the rail industry and Congress can take immediately to boost rail safety across the country, including calling the Department of Transportation “very harsh penalties for rail safety,” the department said. includes giving permission to give.” Reversing the delay in the rail industry’s deadline to use more robust rail cars carrying hazardous materials, in violation of the rules.”
According to the department, the secretary asked Federal Railroad Administration employees to “expedite work on its final rule requiring at least two crew members on trains, long opposed by the railroad industry and some members of Congress.” instructed to do.”
Republicans have called on Buttigieg to resign after the train derailment, claiming he has been slow to react to the disaster. Buttigieg, however, Tweeted Last week that his department’s ability to regulate the rail system is “constrained by law” because of a braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration.
“Happy to discuss the timing of our Ohio trip – but want to start some thinking in Washington that should be the main focus so there aren’t too many questions about rail safety regulation, who is for and who is against. Will stick to accountability,” Buttigieg Tweeted Wednesday night.
In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said the timing of Buttigieg’s visit coincides with the EPA’s “exit from the emergency response phase and transition into the long-term remedial phase.”
The White House sought to pin blame for the spill on Republican and former President Donald Trump, who visited eastern Palestine on Wednesday.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said, “Congressional Republicans and former Trump administration officials apologized for selling East Palestine to rail industry lobbyists when they touted Obama-Biden rail safety protections as well as EPA powers.” Stopped the rapid spread.”
Liz Brown-Kaiser Contribution,