Trump Admin Is to Blame in Ohio Disaster—but So Is Biden

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

The Trumpoids are blaming President Joe Biden for the train derailment in Ohio even though former President Trump scuttled a safety measure that would have minimized, even prevented the disaster.

And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is blaming Trump even though he has had two years to do something about it.

Meanwhile, the people of East Palestine were left with the result, their all-American town turned into a nightmare. Are they already poisoned with something that may take years to kill them? Can they breathe the air? Can they drink the water? Will they ever be able to? Are their homes contaminated?

They were not likely comforted by what Buttigieg tweeted. “We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe, ” he tweeted, as if the Biden administration had no ability to rectify what Trump has done.

The brake rule in question required that trains transporting hazardous materials be equipped with electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes, which the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) described back in 2007 as “capable of preventing derailments and shortening train stopping distances.”

“ECP brakes are to trains what anti-lock brakes are to automobiles—they provide better control,” FRA Administrator John Boardman said at the time. “It offers a quantum improvement in rail safety.”

ECP had been in development since 1993. In 2007, Norfolk Southern Railroad became the first to test ECP brakes on a regular run, a 115-car train in Western Pennsylvania. The system was near perfect. The only significant drawback was the cost of installing it, then estimated at between $2,500 and $4,000 a car. The Obama administration reasoned that this was a reasonable price to pay to prevent or at least minimize such catastrophes as the 2005 derailment in Graniteville, South Carolina. The wreck sent 90 tons of pressurized liquid chlorine into the air, killing 10 and injuring 250, including numerous people with health issues that persist to this day.

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But the Republican-controlled Congress applied a different calculus regarding money and safety. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota led a successful effort to have the rule put on hold pending an appraisal by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Government Accounting Office (GAO). That was to be followed by an “evidence-based” appraisal by the secretary of transportation.

In the meantime, Trump became president and appointed Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to become the new transportation secretary. The question of ECP brakes passed to her department, which conducted what it termed a “revised cost-benefit analysis.” The value of the lives and health of individuals who might be affected was not factored in. The only consideration was money.

“The expected benefits do not exceed the expected costs,” the Trump era DOT found.

WATCH: Plume of Toxic Gas Envelopes Ohio Town as Derailed Train Explodes

On June 3, 2016, a train with 96 cars carrying 3 million gallons of oil derailed in Mosier, Oregon, narrowly missing a school and bursting into flames that raged for 14 hours. Computer modeling by the FRA determined that ECP brakes could have prevented the disaster, along with numerous other derailments since 2014. Mosier Mayor Arlene Burns was joined by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Tacoma Mayor Ryan Mello, and other elected leaders in signing a declaration that rescinding the ECP brakes rule was “a clear case of the powerful railroad lobby and the Trump administration sacrificing the safety of local communities in favor of corporate profit.”

“The railroad industry and the Trump administration should stop placing profits ahead of safety,” it said.

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The legacy of Trump valuing money before lives continued with another derailment that would have been at least minimized. This one came on Feb. 3 in East Palestine and resulted in a scary release of hazardous material from a 50-car train belonging to Norfolk Southern, that same railroad that was the first to test the ECP Brakes three decades ago.

Company officials were supposed to attend a town hall meeting to answer questions from town residents on Wednesday. But they failed to show, weighing risk differently when it involves themselves.

“They were scared for their safety,” East Palestine Mayo Trent Conaway told the press.

In the aftermath, Buttigieg spoke of the measures the current administration has taken to improve passenger train lines such as Biden used to commute during his time in the Senate. The Biden people did not even try to explain why they have done nothing to revive the ECP brakes program after two years in office.

Buttigieg only mentioned the brakes while placing blame on Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress. He otherwise did nothing while a host of shameless Republicans ranging from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida sought to blame the Biden administration for the wreck and other recent derailments.

Our current transportation secretary should have already visited the scene when JD Vance showed up there on Thursday. Vance posted a video of himself standing in what appears to be a polluted creek.

“There are dead worms and dead fish all throughout this water…” Vance said, as if his fellow Republicans were not complicit. “If you scrape the creek bed, it’s like chemical is coming out of the ground… This is disgusting.”

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Vance then half proved the wisdom of the adage that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

“The Department of Transportation, your Department of Transportation, has things it can do,” Vance said. “Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help people in this community.”

On Friday, there was a news report that overloading may have been a contributing factor in the East Palestine wreck. That would have made it only more important to have the superior brakes that are applied virtually instantly and simultaneously in all the cars.

As wrong as the Trumpoids are to blame him, Biden is the one who now has to do something. He has to get going and do whatever he can to quite literally put the brakes on before the next disaster.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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