Buttigieg says he plans to visit East Palestine with focus on ‘action’
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he is planning to visit East Palestine, Ohio — the site where a train carrying hazardous materials derailed earlier this month, prompting evacuations and raising concerns of environmental and health risks.
“I am planning to go and our folks were on the ground from the first hours. I do want to stress that the NTSB needs to be able to do its work independently,” he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “But when I go the focus is going to be on 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 in ourselves as a department to help make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future,” he added.
Buttigieg said on Monday that he planned to visit East Palestine “when the time is right,” according to CNN.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway also said on Monday that President Biden’s trip to Ukraine was the “biggest slap in the face,” and that it showed the president “doesn’t care about us.” He said he was “furious” that Biden was in Ukraine giving support to that country, and not to his town.
Buttigieg unveiled a series of proposed rail reforms on Tuesday in the aftermath of the train derailment in Ohio, and called on Norfolk Southern and other rail companies to improve safeguards, phase in new rail cars and notify state emergency officials in advance if hazardous gas tank cars are moving through their state.
He also called on Congress to increase the fines that the Transportation Department can issue against rail companies for safety violations, which currently stand at $225,455 for the maximum fine.
The newly announced reforms will also include the agency inspecting routes where trains with large amount of hazardous material travel, and moving forward with a rule that mandates that two railroad staff should be present during most rail operations.
“We are advancing the requirement on two person crews on trains,” Buttigieg said on Tuesday. “Believe it or not, the rail industry has been pushing to be allowed to have trains have only one human being on board. Imagine what happens if there’s an issue on a train that’s a mile long or longer.”
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