President Joe Biden said Thursday he will travel to East Palestine, Ohio “at some point” as residents continue to exercise health and safety fears after a fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals last month.
After attending a luncheon of Senate Democrats at the US Capitol, Biden told reporters he was in contact with officials responding to the crisis in the city near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
“I’ve talked to every official in Ohio, Democrat and Republican, on an ongoing basis, like in Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “I kind of articulated what I think the answers are and we put it together. And we’re going to implement a lot of legislation here.”
“And I’ll be out there at some point,” he added.
Last week, Biden told reporters he had no plans to visit East Palestine “at this time.”
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre did not share further details during Thursday’s briefing.
Ohio’s two senators, Sherrod Brown (D) and JD Vance (R), along with Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), on Wednesday introduced legislation that includes new safety rules for railroad companies to help prevent future train disasters.
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine never happens again,” Vance said. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a disaster of this nature.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg became the highest-ranking government official to visit East Palestine last week. He urged “any national political figure who has decided to get involved in the plight of East Palestine” to cooperate with his department to prevent future accidents.
Republicans, including Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), seized on the derailment to criticize Buttigieg for visiting 20 days after the wreck.
Former President Donald Trump also visited the derailment site last week, along with Vance, as he campaigns for the White House in 2024.
In an interview with ABC’s David Muir last month, Biden defended his administration’s handling of the disaster.
“Within two hours of that derailment, the EPA was there. Within two hours. Every major agency in the United States government that had anything to do with rail or cleanup was there and is there,” he said.
Meanwhile, residents of East Palestine on Thursday said they still face health problems during a town hall with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and a sole representative from Norfolk Southern.
The Norfolk Southern train that derailed and caught fire on Feb. 3 was carrying toxic and flammable materials, including hundreds of thousands of pounds of vinyl chloride, a plastic component that has been linked to cancer.
Alan Shaw, the chief executive of Norfolk Southern, is to appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next week.
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