President Joe Biden said Thursday he will travel to eastern Palestine, Ohio, “at some point” as residents continue to fear for their health and safety following the fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals last month.
After attending a Senate Democratic luncheon at the Capitol, Biden told reporters he has been in touch with officials responding to the crisis in the city near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
“I’ve talked to every official in Ohio all the way through, Democrat and Republican, as well as in Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “I kind of explained there a little bit what I think the answers are, and we pieced it together. And we will be implementing an awful lot of legislation here.”
“And I will be there at some point,” he added.
Last week, Biden had told reporters he had no plans “at this time” to visit eastern Palestine.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not share further details during Thursday’s briefing.
Ohio’s two senators, Sherrod Brown (D) and JD Vance (R), along with Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), on Wednesday introduced legislation introducing new safety rules for railroad operators to help future train disasters prevent.
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in eastern Palestine never happens again,” Vance said. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from such a disaster.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week became the top government official to visit eastern Palestine. He urged “any national political figure who has decided to become involved in the plight of eastern Palestine” to work with his department to prevent future mishaps.
Republicans, as well as Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), have taken advantage of the train derailment to criticize Buttigieg for his visit 20 days after the wreck.
Former President Donald Trump also visited the site of the derailment last week, alongside Vance, as he campaigns for the 2024 White House.
In an interview with ABC’s David Muir last month, Biden defended his administration’s handling of the disaster.
“Within two hours of that derailment, the EPA was there. Within two hours. Every major agency in the United States government that had anything to do with railroads and or cleanup was there and is there,” he said.
Meanwhile, residents of eastern Palestine said Thursday they still have health concerns at a town hall with Environmental Protection Agency officials and a lone representative from Norfolk Southern.
The Norfolk Southern train that derailed and caught fire on Feb. 3 was carrying toxic and flammable materials, including hundreds of thousands of pounds of vinyl chloride, a component of plastic that has been linked to cancer.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is due to appear before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works next week.