Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday he “could’ve spoken out sooner” about the Department of Transportation’s support in the aftermath of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Buttigieg received bipartisan criticism for waiting 10 days to publicly respond to the Feb. 3 derailment. The derailment caused a toxic chemical spill and a massive fire which led officials to quickly perform a “controlled vent and burn” to avoid a “catastrophic” explosion into the water and air.
“Our department was on the ground within hours, helping with the response and the investigation,” he said. “Again, I respect the separate role of the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board]. But we have been on the ground literally from day one to make sure that we’re doing our part to support. I do think it’s important to speak out about that, and I could have spoken sooner, and I’m making sure that we are focused on the actions that are gonna make a difference.”
The transportation secretary first expressed his support for the investigation led by the NTSB in a Tweet on Feb. 13. He also assured the public the Federal Rail Administration and Pipelines and Hazardous Materials teams were on-site investigating the causes and remaining “actively engaged” with the incident. (RELATED: Buttigieg Says ‘Situation’ In Ohio Getting ‘High Amount Of Attention’ Though Train Derailments Happen All The Time)
USDOT has been supporting the investigation led by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Our Federal Rail Administration and Pipelines and Hazardous Materials teams were onsite within hours of the initial incident and continue to be actively engaged.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 14, 2023
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told Fox News the following day that he had not seen Buttigieg at the scene of the derailment “at all” throughout the catastrophe. He said President Joe Biden called him with a promise to send him any resource needed to mitigate the emergency.
NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy publicly accused Buttigieg of spreading “misinformation” about the derailment in a Feb. 17 statement after he blamed Trump-era deregulation for the incident.
“Some are saying the ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brake rule, if implemented, would’ve prevented this derailment. FALSE – here’s why…” Homendy tweeted. “The ECP braking rule would’ve applied ONLY to HIGH HAZARD FLAMMABLE TRAINS. The train that derailed in East Palestine was a MIXED FREIGHT TRAIN containing only 3 placarded Class 3 flammable liquids cars.”