Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance said he was “certainly not” happy with the Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg’s handling of the East Palestine train derailment.
“He’s more concerned about racism and white construction workers,” Vance told .
Explaining what he wants from the transport department, Vance said: “I’d like to see more investigation. I would like to see some openness about what the regulatory failure was.’
Buttigieg has said on Twitter his agency supports the ongoing investigation into the February 3 fiery derailment of 50 cars and will work to “ensure accountability.”
But the 41-year-old transport secretary became furious during a speech at the National Association of Counties Conference on Monday for failing to address the derailment that spilled toxic chemicals and forced thousands to evacuate their homes.
“He’s more concerned about racism and white construction workers,” JD Vance told
During his remarks, Buttigieg accused construction sites of not hiring workers who look like the communities they are building for.
“We’ve heard far too many stories from generations past about infrastructure, where you have a neighborhood, often a neighborhood of color, that the project is finally getting to you, but seeing everyone with hard hats on this project doing the well-paying jobs don’t look like they’re local,” Buttigieg said.
He also hailed infrastructure projects in the works across the country, calling it an “exciting time” as the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill injects funds into the transportation sector.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the Environmental Protection Agency work “hand in hand” with the state of Ohio. “The Biden administration has been in touch with local officials to ensure their needs are being met,” she said.
Later that evening, Buttigieg tweeted about the derailment: “I remain concerned about the impact of the February 3rd train derailment near East Palestine, OH and the impact on families in the ten days since their lives have been turned upside down was not their own fault.’
He said his department assisted an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
“We will look at these investigative findings and, based on that, engage all relevant authorities to ensure accountability and continue to support safety,” he added.
But onlookers had been waiting for the transport minister to speak about the train derailment in eastern Palestine, which caused a toxic chemical leak and the evacuation of about 5,000 local residents.
About 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern Railroad train traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania went off the track. The train had transported toxins such as vinyl chloride, phosgene and hydrogen chloride.
According to the National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride “is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancer, lymphoma, and leukemia.”
Transport Sec Pete Buttigieg tweeted that his agency was working to “assist” investigations into the Ohio train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals and forced thousands to evacuate
Smoke rises from the debris of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio
This photo taken by a drone shows parts of a Norfolk-Southern freight train that derailed in eastern Palestine, Ohio, Friday night
Officials conducted a controlled burn of the spilled liquid and evacuated residents within a one-mile radius of the incident.
Residents of the small town on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border were allowed to return after tests confirmed the air and water were safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Sunday it had found no air quality toxin levels of concern, although the incident raises concerns about lasting environmental damage and dangerous working conditions for railroad workers.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said the city’s water supply was safe, but the spill resulted in fish deaths. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimated that about 3,500 fish swimming in contaminated streams died as a result of the incident.
Buttigieg’s reluctance to publicly address the matter has been flagged up on social media.
“He jokes about balloons while ignoring East Palestine, OH,” tweeted former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, a Democrat, along with a video of Buttigieg referring to the Chinese spy balloon that flew over last week was shot down in the Atlantic.
“We deserve better,” she added.
“When the issue of racist highways or white construction crews comes up, Secretary @PeteButtigieg is an open book,” wrote David Giglio, a former congressional candidate from California, on Twitter. “But if an environmental disaster happens in Ohio, he’s MIA.”
Former Rep. Mayra Flores, a Texas Republican, tweeted Monday, “The silence of the press and the federal government is a dereliction of duty to the public. Where is Peter Buttigieg? How will this Ohio train derailment affect our farmers, the surrounding community and our supply chain for Americans?
After the accident, some railroad experts have called on Buttigieg’s transportation department to reintroduce an Obama-era regulation aimed at expanding the use of electronic braking technology, which is said to be safer than the widespread braking systems that have been around since the 19th century gives.
Rail lobbyists had successfully pushed the Trump administration to repeal the 2015 rule that required newer, safer electronic braking systems on some trains carrying dangerous goods.
“The rail derailment in East Palestine will have a significant negative impact on the health and well-being of residents for decades and there is almost no national media attention. We need a congressional investigation and direct action from @PeteButtigieg to address this tragedy,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Squad member, wrote on Twitter Monday night.
“Totally agree,” Senator Ted Cruz replied Tuesday morning.
“So do you support reinstating the railroad safety rules that Trump repealed — while Norfolk Southern executives made millions and spending billions on share buybacks — and extending the safety rules to trains that haul these chemicals?” Omar asked him.