On the evening of Tuesday (February 14), Secretary for the Department of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, shifted blame for the recent derailment of a train in Ohio on the Trump administration.
Buttigieg explained that the reason the train, which was carrying toxic chemicals, derailed had to do with reversing a safety precaution in 2018.
The Transportation Secretary noted that under his management, the agency had been prioritizing improving rail safety through “historic investment,” but explained that those efforts were hampered by the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to withdraw a rule proposed in 2015.
The little-known rule required trains with certain toxic loads to utilize electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) brakes.
But during the Trump era, that rule was overturned, with the administration claiming there was inconclusive evidence to suggest the braking system improved safety.
In a tweet, Buttigieg welcomed the “newfound or renewed” interest in rail safety following the derailment of a train in East Palestine.
He asserted that while the agency was “constrained” on making changes to rail regulations because of some laws, they are using the “powers” they do have to improve rail safety.
Buttigieg added that he was willing and available to “work with Congress” to scale and restore the DOT’s “capacity to address rail safety issues.”
Buttigieg’s comments come nearly 11 days after a train carrying vinyl chloride, a toxic colorless gas, derailed along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border in Columbiana County.
The train’s operator, Norfolk Southern Railroad, decided to release the gas from the derailed carts rather than risk a disastrous explosion. Residents had to evacuate the area as a result but could return by February 9.