Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is keeping up the fervor of the federal government’s response to the recent derailment of a train carrying potentially dangerous chemicals in Ohio, while Republicans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, who’s running for president again, try to use what happened as an opportunity to politically target the Biden administration and officials in it, like Buttigieg.
Buttigieg has faced criticism, including from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), for the timing of his own trip to the Ohio community of East Palestine that was affected by the disaster, although Buttigieg noted in an interview on MSNBC that Trump — who himself visited East Palestine — never even went to the site of a train derailment when he was in office. Then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao didn’t make such a trip either, Buttigieg observed, also based on information he had. He and others have also pointed to the deregulation that Trump, Rubio, and others have promoted. Rubio signed a letter in 2021 in support of the idea of lowering the rate of visual inspections for train tracks, using automated data collection instead, although it’s not that difficult to anticipate that visual inspections by actual people could have their own benefits.
Trump also regularly trumpeted his personal push to shrink the scope of federal regulation when in office. “This is somebody who, as far as I know, never went to a derailment site when one of those happened on his watch, and there were thousands, even ones with fatalities,” Buttigieg said. “Never even sent his Transportation Secretary to go. Now that it’s campaign season, I guess things are different. We were there to work. We were there to get things done, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to be there, because I’ve got to tell you. The people I spent time with in East Palestine, we didn’t talk politics… What came up was how concerned they are for their community.”
Buttigieg also cited the work of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, whose personnel quickly got involved in testing the air inside hundreds of homes in the area of the derailment.
Elsewhere, Buttigieg also cited some of the deregulation that took place during Trump’s presidency while he was in Ohio earlier this week. At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized those targeting Buttigieg during a press conference on Thursday. “The reason why we believe it’s bad faith is — if you remember Elaine Chao, she was the head of [the] Department of Transportation,” Jean-Pierre commented to reporters. “When there was these types of chemical spills, nobody was calling for her to be fired… It is pure politics. This is pure political stunts, what they’re doing.” Notably, state leadership in Ohio have evidently indicated the Biden administration has been sufficiently forthcoming for their needs. A dispute of the sort some saw as states tried to secure supplies for dealing with COVID-19 under Trump apparently isn’t present.
Check out Buttigieg’s interview below: