President Joe Biden will visit East Palestine, Ohio this Friday, finally making good on his promise to tour the site of the Norfolk Southern train derailment that unleashed a brew of toxic chemicals into the environment more than a year ago.
News of the Democrat’s visit came after he endured fierce criticism from Republicans for failing to visit the beleaguered community since the Feb. 3, 2023 environmental disaster.
“The President will travel to East Palestine, Ohio to discuss how the Administration is continuing to work with state and local officials to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and support the community as it moves forward,” the White House said in an advisory.
Dozens of cars on a Norfolk Southern freight train transporting toxic chemicals derailed last year, causing authorities to made the controversial decision to conduct a control burn, which set off a plume of black clouds over the community.
The carcinogen is believed to have released highly toxic dioxins after being burned as well over 100,000 gallons of vinyl chloride were leaked in the aftermath of the derailment.
The synthetic polymer of plastic can take a toll on one’s nervous system and cause long-term health ailments such as liver damage or cancer.
At least four other toxic chemicals, including butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and isobutylene also leaked during the derailment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Republican East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, invited Biden to visit the town, which is roughly an hour’s drive west of Pittsburgh.
A White House official confirmed last month that Biden intended to travel to East Palestine this February, but didn’t publicly set a date in stone.
Democrats such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have tried to flip the blame on Trump, pointing to rail deregulations during his White House tenure.
“Well, I haven’t had the occasion to go to East Palestine,” Biden told reporters in September when asked. “There’s a lot going on here, and I just haven’t been able to break.”
“I was thinking whether I’d go to East Palestine this week, but I was reminded I’ve got to go literally around the world,” Biden added, referring to his Group of 20 trip to New Dehli India that featured a stop in Vietnam.
Residents in East Palestine have reported an array of health scares and concerns for the long-term outlook following the exposure to the hazardous chemicals.
“The President will discuss his commitment to ensuring the people of East Palestine are not defined by this single event, and that his administration is delivering on the needs of families, businesses, and affected residents,” the White House added.
In the time since the spill, multiple lawmakers have crafted legislation to tighten rail safety standards, including via the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.
However, such legislation has remained in limbo.