- White House officials told NBC News on Monday that there is no set plan for President Joe Biden to visit East Palestine, Ohio, after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed more than one month ago.
- Biden told reporters on March 2 that he would visit the village “at some point,” but Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said later that day there were no new travel plans.
- “When or if the president should go is of course a question we would talk about, but I don’t think this is something we’ve been agonizing over in real-time,” a senior White House official told NBC News.
White House officials confirmed to NBC News on Monday that there is no scheduled trip to the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern derailment which released toxic chemicals into an eastern Ohio village, despite President Biden’s recent assurance to reporters that he would visit.
The president told reporters on March 2 after attending a luncheon at the US Capitol that he would visit East Palestine, Ohio, “at some point.” Residents are still grappling with the fallout after the derailment spilled hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride into the air and water, even though Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing maintains both levels are safe, according to its website. (RELATED: Norfolk Southern Will Pay Residents To Relocate During Toxic Train Derailment Cleanup)
“When or if the president should go is of course a question we would talk about, but I don’t think this is something we’ve been agonizing over in real-time,” a senior White House official told NBC News.
A second White House official said that should Biden visit East Palestine, it would be at a time that “makes sense” and could be tacked on as part of another trip, NBC News reported. Another said that while they believe Biden should make an appearance, they “have to assume there were really smart discussions behind the scenes that presented a viable reason why he was waiting to go.”
The White House did not respond to repeated emails from the Daily Caller News Foundation asking for clarification about Biden’s previous comment. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said later that day that there were no new travel plans for the president.
Biden’s absence attracted bipartisan attention from current and former Ohio lawmakers. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine told “Fox & Friends” on Feb. 2 that Biden should visit East Palestine, and former Democratic Senator Tim Ryan told MSNBC on Feb. 27 that he encourages Biden to go.
“You know, showing up is 90%. I think being there, I think the fact that Secretary Buttigieg was there the other day, was a good sign,” Ryan said. “I would encourage the president to be there and not forget.”
East Palestine residents “want to see the president,” according to DeWine.
Biden has been in communication with government officials who have been on the ground including EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, NBC News reported. Officials say that Biden’s hesitancy to visit the site is because he does not want to delay cleanup efforts by causing a distraction.
Residents, however, offered a warm welcome to former President Donald Trump during his Feb. 22 visit during which he met with them, delivered water and cleaning supplies and bought McDonald’s for first responders.
“I’m so glad he’s taken an interest in our tiny town,” Jennifer Lohr told the DCNF. “For him to come down on his own dime to help us out, to say ‘what can he do’ … even his presence here is drawing us attention and that’s all we need is attention, so we’re not forgotten.”
Residents were not surprised to learn that Biden visited Kviv, Ukraine, only a few days before Trump’s visit, during which he promised additional military aid for their efforts against Russia.
“It wasn’t really surprising. It sounds like something he would do, so it doesn’t surprise me at all. And it doesn’t surprise me that Trump decided to come out here for us, so if he gets to hear this tell him we all appreciate it out here,” Michael Viccari, who went to see Trump during his visit to East Palestine, told the DCNF.
Erin Brockovich, a prominent environmental activist, visited East Palestine on Feb. 24 for an East Palestine Justice town hall which delivered information to residents about the chemicals that were dumped in their community and the legal options they can consider. Brockovich warned during the meeting that “superman’s not coming.”
“No one is coming to change what’s happened to you, magically fix what’s happened to you or give you all the answers,” she said.
East Palestine Justice will hold two additional town halls on Wednesday in East Palestine and in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, which is located near the derailment site, according to media advisory obtained by the DCNF.
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