In a Tuesday evening Twitter thread on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) plans to tackle the derailments like the one that contaminated air and waterways in the northeastern Ohio village, Buttigieg said that his agency has been hindered by a Trump-era statute. In 2018, DOT withdrew a 2015 rule that required trains carrying certain dangerous chemicals to utilize electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes. At the time, the agency didn't find conclusive evidence of the technology's benefits, reported Fox News.
"In the wake of the East Palestine derailment and its impact on hundreds of residents, we're seeing lots of newfound or renewed (and welcome) interest in our work on rail safety, so I wanted to share more about what we’ve been doing in this area," 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"We're constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe."
"And of course, I'm always ready to work with Congress on furthering (or in some cases, restoring) our capacity to address rail safety issues," the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana added.
Under the Biden administration and Buttigieg's leadership, the DOT could theoretically change the rule back, but they haven't.
"He did command a 60-bus fleet in South Bend... what a horrid hire this goof is. As weak a person as you could have," radio host Mike North said.
"Why did it take you 10 days to care? Asking for every single American," wrote another commenter.
It was on February 3 when a train carrying vinyl chloride operated by Norfolk Southern Railroad derailed in Columbiana County, along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. The transportation company's response was to set the chemicals on fire as a means of disposing of them, but this method backfired, releasing the toxic chemicals into the water and air.
Residents of East Palestine were told to evacuate, and then told it was safe to return on Feb. 9. However, fish in local creeks and pets alike have reportedly dropped dead due to the toxins.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Norfolk Southern, and state officials have said that the air is safe to breathe after conducting tests, but local residents and experts alike are still hesitant to trust it.
"The railroad company is responsible for this and for these people who went back to their homes. Their homes should have been tested. Their homes should have been cleaned. From the onset, these people were being marginalized in an effort to mitigate this," said Sil Caggiano, a local hazardous materials specialist to Fox News.
"This really looks like a nuclear winter," he added. "Pretty much, yeah, we nuked this town with chemicals."
Buttigieg made no comments on the situation until his Tuesday Twitter thread, 10 days after the catastrophe.
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