This is a truly sad story with an unsurprising villain. Quoted from Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters From an American today, we can trace much of the blame for the environmental disaster now happening in Ohio to deregulation moves made by Trump. In return for millions of donations from railroad lobbies.
This is my #1 political hot button – the EPA. Allowing corporations to pollute the environment as they wish is simply stupid. Idiocracy! It hurts everyone, but still we fight regulations because it reduces profits. Makes me crazy. We’ve only got one Earth, so why do we keep ruining it?
But the derailment of fifty Norfolk Southern train cars, eleven of which carried hazardous chemicals, near East Palestine, Ohio, near the northeastern border of the state on February 3 has powerfully illustrated the downsides of deregulation. The accident released highly toxic chemicals into the air, water, and ground, causing a massive fire and forcing about 5,000 nearby residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania to evacuate. On February 6, when it appeared some of the rail cars would explode, officials allowed the company to release and burn the toxic vinyl chloride stored in it. The controlled burn sent highly toxic phosgene, used as a weapon in World War I, into the air.
Republican Ohio governor Mike DeWine has refused federal assistance from President Biden, who, he said, called to offer “anything you need.” DeWine said he had not called back to take him up on the offer. “We will not hesitate to do that if we’re seeing a problem or anything, but I’m not seeing it,” he said.
Just over the border, Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said that Norfolk Southern had botched its response to the accident. “Norfolk Southern has repeatedly assured us of the safety of their rail cars—in fact, leading Norfolk Southern personnel described them to me as ‘the Cadillac of rail cars’—yet despite these assertions, these were the same cars that Norfolk Southern personnel rushed to vent and burn without gathering input from state and local leaders. Norfolk Southern’s well known opposition to modern regulations [requires] further scrutiny and investigation to limit the devastating effects of future accidents on people’s lives, property, businesses, and the environment.”
Shapiro was likely referring to the fact that in 2017, after donors from the railroad industry poured more than $6 million into Republican political campaigns, the Trump administration got rid of a rule imposed by the Obama administration that required better braking systems on rail cars that carried hazardous flammable materials.
According to David Sirota, Julia Rock, Rebecca Burns, and Matthew Cunningham-Cook, writing in the investigative journal The Lever, Norfolk Southern supported the repeal, telling regulators new electronically controlled pneumatic brakes on high-hazard flammable trains (HHFT) would “impose tremendous costs without providing offsetting safety benefits.” Railroads also lobbied to limit the definition of HFFT to cover primarily trains that carry oil, not industrial chemicals. The train that derailed in Ohio was not classified as an HHFT.
Nonetheless, Ohio’s new far-right Republican senator J. D. Vance went on the Fox News Channel show of personality Tucker Carlson to blame the Biden administration for the accident. He said there was no excuse for failing infrastructure after the passage last year of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, and said that the administration is too focused on “environmental racism and other ridiculous things.” We are, he said, “ruled by unserious people.”
He also issued a statement saying that “my office will continue to work with FEMA” over the issue, although FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has not been mobilized because Ohio governor DeWine has not requested a federal disaster declaration.
This is the part that kills me: “Shapiro was likely referring to the fact that in 2017, after donors from the railroad industry poured more than $6 million into Republican political campaigns, the Trump administration got rid of a rule imposed by the Obama administration that required better braking systems on rail cars that carried hazardous flammable materials.”
There seems to be no end to the damage that Trump did to our nation. This is just one more example.