A Biden official tossed cold water on claims from both the Biden administration and those on the left that former President Donald Trump is to blame for the Ohio train derailment.
A Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed Feb. 3 near East Palestine, Ohio, prompting evacuations and shelter-in-place orders throughout the town. Officials have said it is safe for residents to return to the town and that the air and water are safe, though residents have expressed skepticism and requested the federal government do more.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said Republicans and the Trump administration “owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists when they dismantled Obama-Biden rail safety protections as well as EPA powers to rapidly contain spills.”
Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg has also tried to lay blame on the Trump administration, arguing Trump withdrew an Obama-era proposal that would have required a special braking system for trains carrying highly flammable materials.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy dismissed the allegations while speaking Thursday on CNN.
“Yet, even with the 20 cars with toxic materials under current safety rules, that train still did not qualify for designation as a ‘high-hazard flammable train,’ which would have gotten it, or required at least, a newer, safer braking system. So that rule, as it stands right now, clearly was inadequate for the citizens of East Palestine,” host Jake Tapper said. “Why not add the newer braking system to any train carrying hazardous material, not just those with more than 20 cars of hazardous material?”
“The NTSB has looked at electronically controlled pneumatic braking for a number of years and we did some testing, as well. Certainly, it would improve safety. But for this investigation and for this derailment, ECP [electronically controlled pneumatic] brakes would not have prevented the derailment. The wheel bearing failed on car number 23. So, even with ECP brakes, the derailment would have occurred, the fire would have ensued and the five vinyl chloride tank cars would still have to be vented and burned,” Homendy said.
“Is there any obvious rule change that would have prevented this?” Tapper pressed. (RELATED: Dem Rep Defends Buttigieg, Blames Trump For Toxic Train Wreck)
“It’s too early to tell. In our analysis phase of the investigation, we’ll look at just that. We’ll look at what could have prevented this terrible tragedy. And it could be regulation changes,” Homendy replied. “It could be recommendations to Norfolk Southern, to the Department of Transportation or to rail car manufacturers or to emergency responders. But, again, it’s too early to tell. And just to mention, the NTSB does not have regulatory authority.”
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. pic.twitter.com/ReAFDSdsn7
— Jennifer Homendy (@JenniferHomendy) February 17, 2023
Homendy has previously spoken out about the “misinformation,” saying the ECP brake rule would not have prevented the derailment because it would have 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,” Homendy wrote in a Tweet.