Despite Deregulating Railroads, Trump Brags About His ‘Ratings’ During East Palestine Visit
On Thursday, former president Donald Trump posted a “truth” on his Truth Social account bragging that more than 178 million people saw press coverage of his visit to East Palestine, Ohio on Wednesday.
East Palestine is a small town of less than 5,000 people, which has received national attention since a train carrying vinyl chloride derailed on February 3, causing an enormous chemical fire and possibly poisoning the town’s air and water supply.
Trump’s “truth” reads: “The visit meant a lot for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. The trip gave them hope and raised awareness needed to combat the incompetence of the Biden Administration.”
It is unclear where Trump got the number of 178 million people, which would account for more than half of the entire U.S. population.
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During Trump’s visit to East Palestine, he handed out Trump-branded water bottles to the East Palestine residents, many of which are understandably concerned about the quality of their drinking water since the Norfolk Southern cargo train derailed.
Close Trump ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) also mentioned the visit on her Truth Social account.
“President @realDonaldTrump visits the people of East Palestine, Ohio and brings them water & supplies while Joe Biden only cares about pushing more war and US money in Ukraine…Thank you President Trump for continuing to show what America First looks like,” she said.
While the political optics of the former president’s visit were undeniable, given that Trump beat both President Joe Biden and his Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to the scene, the facts paint a substantially more complicated story.
The train derailment would almost certainly have been less severe, if not completely avoided, if the train was equipped with Electronically Controlled Pneumatic (ECP) brakes, a new technology meant to replace the current “civil war era” breaks on the nation’s current railway network.
The rail industry donated more than $6.5 million to Republican campaigns and about $3.5 million to Democrats in 2016 in order to receive favorable regulatory treatment.
The Trump administration, backed by the rail industry and Senate Republicans, rescinded parts of an Obama-era rule in 2017 that would have forced Norfolk Southern and other rail giants to update their braking systems. The company’s lobbying firm argued that the regulations imposed “tremendous costs without providing offsetting safety benefits.”
When pushed by the Obama administration in 2014 to implement ECP breaks on trains containing dangerous chemicals, however, Norfolk Southern and other train corporations lobbied to only put them on trains containing crude oil.
While it is unclear if the 2014 law would have prevented the East Palestine derailment, given that the leaked chemical was vinyl chloride and not crude oil, it is undeniable that Democratic politicians are more committed to railroad safety regulations than Trump and his allies, despite his claims.
Researchers have found elevated levels of chemicals in East Palestine’s air and water that are known to trigger eye and lung irritation, headaches and other symptoms. Long term, the chemicals are known or suspected to cause cancer.
Many residents are already complaining of symptoms such as rashes and headaches.
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