Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is pushing back on the narrative from former President Donald Trump meant to tamp down the impression of the ex-president’s responsibility for deregulation around railways, even though key developments happened while he was in office.
The conversation is taking place after an incident in Ohio in which a train carrying potentially hazardous chemicals went off the tracks, sending pollutants into the local environment. Authorities in the state and from the federal government quickly mobilized, and besides the federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board into the circumstances of the wreck, staff from the Environmental Protection Agency also showed up, helping with testing of local air, soil, and water. Federal personnel conducted testing of indoor air for hundreds of homes. Republicans like Trump, though, have tried to insist there’s some kind of indifference to the situation from key authorities, which is a notion Buttigieg is working to shut down.
He has previously pointed to the approval by Congress of legislation that set up the process under which demands for updated brakes on certain trains were undone once Trump became president.
“One thing he can do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch,” Buttigieg said, referring to the former president. “I heard him say he had nothing to do with it, even though it was in his administration. So, if he had nothing to do with it and they did it in his administration against his will, maybe he could come out and say that he supports us moving in a different direction. We’re not afraid to own our policies when it comes to raising the bar on regulation. I’ve got to think that him indicating that this is something that everybody, no matter how much you disagree on politics and presidential campaigns, can get behind — higher fines, tougher regulations on safety, Congress untying our hands on braking rules, all the other things that go with that — that would be a nice thing for him to do.”
The past action by Congress on the braking systems used for trains demanded new analyses of the economic costs and benefits associated with the updated systems and concurrent action by officials in line with those findings, and it was once Trump took office the updates to braking standards were undone. When passed by the Senate, it appears an interesting coalition of both Democrats and some of the most antagonistic Republicans, like Rand Paul (Ky.), voted against the plan that facilitated that deregulation. (There was no recorded vote in the House, which instead approved the measure via a procedural mechanism called unanimous consent, per available details.) Buttigieg, as he referenced, has also pushed the idea of Congress increasing the level of fines that federal officials can impose in train disaster situations. He has also pointed to federal money made available in support of, among other things, local responses to incidents involving hazardous chemicals.
Watch Buttigieg below:
Buttigieg: One thing Trump can do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch. I heard him say he had nothing to do with it. So if he had nothing to do with it.. pic.twitter.com/GclGYPOm3l
— Acyn (@Acyn) February 23, 2023