Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote Monday that former President Donald Trump cannot be held responsible for the East Palestine train derailment, despite many on the left claiming otherwise.
A Norfolk Southern train derailed on Feb. 3 just outside of East Palestine, Ohio, releasing hazardous chemicals into the air and water. The Biden Administration has come under fire after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took weeks to visit the site. President Joe Biden has yet to visit East Palestine.
White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told USA Today that 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 precautions as well as EPA powers to rapidly contain spills.”
Buttigieg also tried to lay blame on the Trump administration, arguing that the accident could have been prevented if Trump had not withdrawn an Obama-era proposal that would have required a special braking system for trains carrying highly flammable materials.
“We decided to examine every possible regulatory change made under Trump that could be related to the accident and assess whether it could have made an impact,” Kessler wrote. “From our analysis, none of the regulatory changes made during the Trump administration at this point can be cited as contributing to the accident.” (RELATED: Trump’s Railroad Regulation Rollbacks Would Not Have Led To Toxic Ohio Train Derailment, Expert Says)
Kessler presented and then debunked several possible ways Trump could have helped cause the derailment. When it came to electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, Kessler noted although the Trump administration did get rid of the rule, the Biden administration made no effort to reinstate it. Kessler also argued that ECP brakes would not have helped, noting that by the time the train’s crew activated its emergency braking system, the train had already derailed.
National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy also dismissed allegations that Trump was responsible, explaining on both CNN and Twitter that the electronically controlled pneumatic brakes would not have prevented the derailment.
Kessler went on to debunk a claim that a Trump rule loosening brake safety inspection requirements contributed to the accident, writing that there “is no determination yet that the braking system played a role in the accident.”
When it came to the amount of crew present, the Trump administration withdrew a proposal in 2019 that required two crew members on duty at all times. As Kessler noted, the train had two crew members as well as a trainee.
Kessler went through several other Trump-era rollbacks such as minimum rail safety requirements, safety audits and deregulation of ethylene oxide and found that the impact of Trump’s decisions ranged from “none” to “minimal.”