Tag: train derailment
East Palestine

The Right's Fake Indignation Over East Palestine Conceals Essential Facts

While the citizens of a small Ohio village suffer in the aftermath of a train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals there, the usual gang of noisemakers is depicting the accident as a conspiracy to harm them — because they're white, or conservative, or residents of a red state. None of it is true, but the Biden administration's halting response to the accident has allowed that false narrative to gain traction among voters. And amid the din of recriminations from the right, too many Americans have lost sight of what really happened in East Palestine and how to keep it from happening in another place.

Among the noxious accusations promoted on Fox News and its countless imitators, perhaps the nastiest is the notion that the Biden administration punished East Palestine for partisan or even racial reasons. Spewing this nonsense with foam-flecked fervor, Fox's Tucker Carlson declared that the people of East Palestine, unlike (Black) citizens of urban districts, aren't "favored" by the Biden White House. They are "forgotten," said freshman Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, a far-right Republican, because "they're our voters." They are neglected, claimed ultra-MAGA Charlie Kirk, because "Democrats hate working-class whites."

Today's quasi-fascist Republican Party promotes such poisonous rhetoric while simultaneously proclaiming its "America First" patriotism." But their constant campaign to divide the nation along racial lines for political advantage mirrors the online propaganda that the Kremlin used to boost Donald Trump in 2016. It is treacherous, not patriotic. And it obscures fundamental facts about the East Palestine incident.

First, the derailment itself was caused not by the Biden administration, but by the negligence of Norfolk Southern, the railroad giant that fights relentlessly against the strict safety regulations and adequate train staffing that might have prevented this disaster. Norfolk Southern and its lobbyists, both in Ohio and Washington, D.C., have succeeded in weakening regulations on train technology and crew size despite years of union protest. The worst executive decisions on railroad safety in recent years were made under the Trump administration, although the former president, while distributing expired bottles of "Trump Water" in East Palestine, insisted it had "nothing to do" with him.

Second, there would be nothing magical about a visit to East Palestine by Biden, who was pilloried for traveling to Ukraine instead right after the derailment occurred. In fact, a presidential visit to Ohio would have hampered cleanup and relief efforts. Only Putin's GOP stooges could mock Biden for venturing to Kyiv on a dangerous, arduous, and vital mission at 80 years of age. It is worth noting that neither Trump nor his transportation secretary Elaine Chao visited a single derailment site during his presidency.

Third, any delays in bringing badly needed federal assistance to East Palestine are more likely the fault of Ohio's Republican Gov. Mike DeWine than Biden — who immediately called DeWine after the accident to offer "anything you need." For reasons that still seem obscure but may involve reducing Norfolk Southern's ultimate liability and expense, DeWine has refused to issue a disaster declaration. That strange decision has limited the ability of the Federal Emergency Management Administration to act.

As reported by investigative news site The Lever, DeWine has long maintained very close ties with Norfolk Southern, which has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, and to its lobbyists, at least one of whom recently held a top position in his office. He has vowed to make the railroad pay for the cleanup, but whether he will press that demand remains to be seen. Railroad safety legislation has languished and died during his administration.

Finally, the salient question for the Republicans barking at Biden is what they will do to prevent future rail disasters. With longer trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials over great distances, something much worse than East Palestine could easily occur in another town or city, possibly killing hundreds of innocent people.

Will Biden's critics now support efforts by the president, congressional Democrats and the railway unions to improve freight rail safety, as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg challenged them to do? Or will they simply move on to the next opportunity for a fake indignation campaign, and leave working-class communities to their fate?

Keep your expectations low.

To find out more about The National Memo's editor-in-chief Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

Republicans Who Backed Rail Deregulation Blame Democrats For Disaster

Former President Donald Trump and other Republican politicians are blaming President Joe Biden's administration for ongoing public health challenges facing East Palestine, Ohio, following the February 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train that was transporting toxic chemicals.

But their own party platforms have called for broad deregulation of health, climate, and safety standards across the government, and Trump and others in his party pushed to weaken railroad regulations aimed at preventing derailments and other potential accidents.

For years, Republican politicians have characterized regulations as "burdensome" and "job-killing" while proposing policies to prevent the federal government from protecting consumers, workers, and the environment.

In a section of its 2016 platform, which was left unchanged at the 2020 GOP convention, the Republican National Committee warned against "Regulation: The Quiet Tyranny."

Over-regulation is the quiet tyranny of the "Nanny State." It hamstrings American businesses and hobbles economic growth. The Great Recession may be over, but in the experience of most Americans, the economy is still sick. The federal regulatory burden has been a major contributor to that stagnation.

The ability of the American people to govern themselves has been undermined by a vast array of agencies with sweeping power to regulate every aspect of American life.

As a candidate, Trump promised to issue a new rule on the first day of his administration requiring "that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated." He continued his deregulation crusade as president, repealing several environmental, health, and safety regulations issued under his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

Among them was a 2015 Obama administration requirement that electronic braking systems be installed on trains that transport flammable crude oils. The Trump administration claimed in 2018 that the cost of the brakes outweighed any potential benefit and cut the regulation.

Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, tweeted on Feb. 16 that this rule would likely not have prevented the East Palestine derailment because it would not have applied to the train that derailed.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) demanded on February 16 that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg resign, claiming in a press release, "The circumstances leading up to the derailment point to a clear lack of oversight and demand engagement by our nation's top transportation official." He said "questions are being raised regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) regulatory oversight and the administration’s response" to the release of vinyl chloride into the ground and air near East Palestine.

Buttigieg defended himself, telling reporters on Monday, "I can't help but notice the last time this agency heard from him on rail regulation was his signature being on a letter that was pretty obviously drafted by industry, calling on us to weaken our practices around track inspection."

Rubio was one of 23 Republican senators who signed an October 2021 letter urging the Federal Railroad Administration to allow more automated railroad track inspections in lieu of human visual inspections, as the rail freight industry has urged. The senators called the issuance of regulatory waivers to rail companies a "critical step in the utilization of new technologies."

A senior Federal Railroad Administration official told the Washington Post on Thursday: "There is a safety basis for visual inspections. We need redundancy and an added level of safety."

The Biden administration also has said that the Trump administration's focus on deregulation undermined public health and safety.

"Congressional Republicans and former Trump Administration officials owe East Palestine an apology for selling them out to rail industry lobbyists when they dismantled Obama-Biden rail safety protections as well as EPA powers to rapidly contain spills," spokesperson Andrew Bates told USA Today on Wednesday.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Train Carrying Toxic Chemicals Derails, Catches Fire In Tennessee

Train Carrying Toxic Chemicals Derails, Catches Fire In Tennessee


Washington — A train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in Tennessee and caught fire, prompting a large-scale evacuation, firefighters said Thursday.

The train derailed near Maryville, close to the city of Knoxville, carrying acrylonitrile, a flammable, toxic compound that poses respiratory risks, firefighter Kermit Easterling said.

Some 5,000 residents are being evacuated, and firefighters are going door to door wearing breathing equipment to get people away from the fire, he said.

Firefighters are not battling the flames because of the dangers of acrylonitrile, and hazmat — hazardous material — teams have been called in to access the situation.

The train, which is also carrying containers of liquid petroleum gas, derailed just before midnight Wednesday, Easterling said.

There have been no reports of injuries, and a shelter has been set up at a local school for evacuated residents, the firefighter said.

File Photo: Freight Train Near Nashville Union Station, Reading Tom via Flickr 

Residents Displaced In West Virginia Train Derailment Wait To Return Home

Residents Displaced In West Virginia Train Derailment Wait To Return Home

By Lexi Belculfine, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

OAK HILL, W.Va. — John Carelli and his family were ready to head home to Mount Carbon, West Virginia, on Wednesday afternoon.

Five of the up to 125 people still displaced by the Monday derailment of a CSX train hauling 3 million gallons of North Dakota crude oil that was still burning Wednesday evening, they knew the decision was risky with an evacuation order still in place.

“I don’t feel like it’s an immediate threat,” Carelli, 40, said. “Plus, I’m tired of staying in a hotel room.”

Bags packed and coats zipped up, they stood in the lobby of the Holiday Lodge Hotel and Conference Center in Oak Hill, about to make the 20-some-mile trek home — until they heard the power was flickering in Adena Village.

With wind chills expected to plummet to minus-30 Wednesday night in southern West Virginia, the Carellis worried about losing power — and heat.

“We’re making the call to be safe, rather than sorry,” said Carelli’s wife, Sharon, 37.

They left their home Monday after the first blast from the derailment blew open their front door, and they lost power.

Twenty-seven of the train’s 109 cars derailed and 19 caught fire, shooting flames sky-high, leaking oil into a Kanawha River tributary and burning a nearby house down to its foundation. The train was headed to Yorktown, Va.

Treacherous roadways forced the Carellis to stop at the lodge, which happened to be one of the hotels in Oak Hill and Charleston at which CSX was providing housing.

Families mingled in the lodge’s lobby Wednesday afternoon, and walked their leashed dogs through the hallways. Carelli brothers Cayden, 6, and Cruz, 4, played hide-and-seek behind couches and drapes.

A blinding snow fell outside.

Kristi and Eric Halstead, who were among those in the lobby, live about 100 yards from the derailment and left their homes with just the clothes on their backs. They, along with their 18-year-old daughter and two small dogs, had been at the lodge since Tuesday and plan to stay until at least Friday.

“It was devastating at first,” she said. “You worry about things. But it can all be replaced. People can’t.”

CSX spokeswoman Melanie Cost said the company is working to get residents back in their homes as soon as it’s safe.

Containment and cleanup efforts in Mount Carbon continued Wednesday, as fires were allowed to burn out.

“That’s the safest thing for the community, first responders and the environment,” Cost said.

An anticipated one to three inches of snow and subzero temperatures were expected to speed up the process.

Neither Cost nor public safety officials could say how long it will be until the fires are extinguished.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing containment of the spilled crude, though it’s too early to know how much was dumped, spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said.

Contractors dug containment ditches, and additional boom materials — which collect oil on water — were put in the nearby Kanawha River.

Gillenwater said 41 rounds of water testing conducted hourly came back “non-detect” for crude particles in the river. Some got into a tributary but was contained by ice and boom materials, she said.

Five thousand gallons of crude oil were vacuumed from the creek and ground near the derailment, though most is believed to have burned off in the fire, Gillenwater said.

Tankers, which each carry up to 30,000 gallons of crude, not involved in the derailment were removed from the area.

Crews on Wednesday began moving cars that derailed but were not damaged back onto the riverside track, so they could be moved to a railyard where their load will be transferred to temporary storage tanks.

When it’s safe to do so, oil from tankers that aren’t structurally sound will be vacuumed out on-site, officials said.

The soil will be tested and extracted after debris has been cleared, Gillenwater said.

Water had been restored to communities downriver from Mount Carbon, though they were still under a boil water advisory, according to West Virginia American Water.

Only one injury was reported since Monday, when some of the tankers hit an Adena Village home and burned it to the ground. The homeowner fled in his bare feet and was treated for smoke inhalation.

CSX has been in contact with that man, Cost said, and is working to “make him full.”

Photo: The wreckage of an oil train derailment in Mount Carbon, W.Va., still smolders 48 hours later. On Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, federal investigators got a closer look at the derailment site, but it still wasn’t safe for a thorough examination of the damage. Their work is further complicated by subzero temperatures in the coming days. No one was killed when the 109-car CSX train from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va., derailed on Monday, but one man was treated for minor injuries. His house, and truck, were destroyed in the derailment. (Curtis Tate/McClatchy/TNS)