Ohio train tragedy blasts toxic cloud of hypocrisy over Buttigieg, green liberals

Biden administration's response to East Palestine unleashes fury, from locals to Washington figures.
Buttigieg stands next to Biden

While weary residents of East Palestine, Ohio wondered aloud this week whether it was safe to return home after the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was hundreds of miles away giving a speech to local county administrators on "safety."

Not the safety of local drinking water near the Ohio crash site, where a controlled burn sent toxins spewing in large enough loads to kill fish and foxes. Nor the safety of a rail car that traveled with its axle on fire — unnoticed — for 20 miles, before crashing and releasing poisons such as vinyl chloride.

Buttigieg instead spoke about how his agency is making racial equity strides through its allocation of public transportation construction contracts. 

"I think we can't tell you what your community's priorities are," he said, "but we can partner with you on priorities that I think we all share. Safety, absolutely. Job creation. And by the way, not just the job creation supported by having a great transit agency or a great highway or a new bridge." 

The contrast was not lost on those on the frontlines — Republicans and Democrat alike — of the environmental crisis simmering in East Palestine, where they have yet to see a senior Biden administration official show up on site to answer questions such as: Why did the train crash? Why did it take a week to get a full inventory of the toxic chemicals aboard the rail cars? And what precautions were taken before the decision was made by Ohio officials to conduct a controlled burn of the cars so they did not explode?

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro unleashed a tirade of his own Wednesday in neighboring Pennsylvania, noting the crash occurred just a few miles from his state line. He wondered aloud why his state wasn't consulted on key decisions like the controlled burn and why Pennsylvania officials weren't told for days about the full range of toxins aboard the derailed train.

"While regulation of the railroad industry is largely the purview of our federal partners, we plan to take direct action here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Shapiro said in a stinging letter of rebuke to the owner of the train, Norfolk Southern.

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), the congressman representing the affected community, went so far as to troll Buttigieg on Twitter, daring him to show up in person to take control of the crisis.

"@SecretaryPete, hope to see you tonight at the town hall in #EastPalestine," he mockingly tweeted. "I'll save a seat for you. It's past time you hear the concerns of residents affected by the train derailment." 

In a separate interview with Just the News, Johnson said the Biden team's response to East Palestine seemed fitting for an administration repeatedly criticized as weak on issues ranging from Afghanistan and baby formula shortages to Chinese spy balloons and rapidly rising inflation.

"We need to deal with fact," Johnson told the John Solomon Reports podcast. "And we need to deal with science. But Mayor Pete, you know, what qualifies him to be the transportation secretary is that he rode a train back and forth to college from home. That's the basis of his qualifications. And if you look at this instance, and and all others, in the Biden administration, from the border to the spy balloons with China, President Biden has apparently surrounded himself with people that are in less control of their faculties than he is."

Johnson said while career bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency and National Transportation Safety Board have done much to help, the political leadership of the administration has failed to express any concern or clarity on the issue.

Even environmental activists normally aligned with President Biden expressed shock at the failure of the administration's messaging regarding safety risks to those within the toxic fallout zone. 

"This is why people don't trust government," famed green activist Erin Brockovich tweeted. "You cannot tell people that there has been and continues to be hazardous pollutants contaminating the environment while at the same time saying all is well."

Safety experts questioned whether the federal government did enough due diligence to ensure safety of air, drinking water and soil before allowing residents to return.

"We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open," hazardous materials specialist Silverado Caggiano told WKBN-TV. "I was surprised when they quickly told the people they can go back home, but then said if they feel like they want their homes tested they can have them tested. I would've far rather they did all the testing." 

Even those with minority ownership stakes in the rail company came under scrutiny.

BlackRock, the massive asset management firm that is leading a woke investment movement in boardrooms known as Environmental Social and Corporate Governance (ESG), faced scrutiny due to its nearly 7% stake in Norfolk Southern.

In response to the fallout, a senior Biden administration official — the EPA director — has finally scheduled a visit to the crash site. This gesture, however, comes after days of concern about the Biden administration undercutting its own rhetoric on environmental and health safety by responding in a tepid and inconsistent way.

The White House did not respond to questions from Just the News about the administration's handling of the crisis. 

You can follow John on Twitter @jsolomonReports and Nick @NGivasDC