Buttigieg has confronted a barrage of criticism, principally from conservatives, for what they understand as a gradual response to the derailment, which resulted in poisonous chemical compounds being launched into the air and floor. A number of Republicans say Buttigieg ought to have traveled to the crash web site sooner, and a few have even known as for him to be fired or resign.
Former President Donald Trump joined within the barrage on Tuesday, calling out Buttigieg, President Joe Biden and the EPA after touring the positioning of the crash, a go to meant to jump-start his slow-moving 2024 presidential marketing campaign.
“Buttigieg ought to’ve been right here already,” Trump advised reporters as he handed out MAGA hats after talking alongside Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Rep. Invoice Johnson (R-Ohio). Trump additionally mentioned Biden ought to “recover from right here.”
On Thursday, after assembly with the mayor, group members, DOT officers and first responders, together with the hearth chief on this deep-red village nestled in Columbiana County, Buttigieg not directly addressed these feedback in a wide-ranging 30-minute press convention. “And to any nationwide political determine who has determined to get entangled within the plight of East Palestine … I’ve a easy message, which is, I would like your assist,” Buttigieg mentioned. “As a result of in the event you’re critical about this, there’s extra that we may do to forestall extra communities from going by way of this.”
Requested by POLITICO whether or not his perceived political ambitions had formed response to his dealing with of the derailment, Buttigieg mentioned, “I’m right here for the work and never for the politics.”
However politics have been driving the narrative for over per week, with no indicators of stopping. On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, the highest Republican on the Senate committee accountable for rail security, mentioned Buttigieg is “determined to salvage his credibility” and used a preliminary factual report issued earlier that morning by federal investigators to recommend that his coverage options are “shallow” and designed to heap blame on Trump.
The pressure has tested the usually mild-mannered former Indiana mayor, who received into a Twitter spat with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio Tuesday after the Republican known as for him to resign or be fired. Buttigieg took extra veiled photographs on Thursday, saying “anybody in Congress who cares about these points, they’re welcome to return to the desk and work with us to get issues executed. So anyone who’s occupied with that, I’m going to carry them to that.”
When asked Thursday by reporters whether he planned to resign, Buttigieg replied: “I’m not right here for politics, I’m right here to verify the group can get what they want.”
The journey coincided with the discharge of the a preliminary report from Nationwide Transportation Security Board, an impartial company, which discovered that the crew of the 150-car Norfolk Southern prepare obtained an alert about an axle overheating, and tried to gradual the prepare down earlier than it derailed. The NTSB’s investigation will probably take 12 to 18 months earlier than it determines what precipitated the derailment.
Regardless of the criticism, the White Home has defended its response and the job Buttigieg has executed, noting that officers from the EPA and the NTSB had been on the bottom inside hours of the derailment. On Tuesday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for the cleanup from the crash.
“The Norfolk Southern prepare derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine households, and EPA’s order will guarantee the corporate is held accountable for jeopardizing the well being and security of this group,” Regan mentioned in an announcement Tuesday. “Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern pays for cleansing up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this group.”
On Thursday, Buttigieg promised the federal authorities would ensure that occurred.
“We’re gonna be right here, day in, time out, 12 months in, 12 months out, making our railroads safer and ensuring Norfolk Southern meets its tasks. That may be a promise, and one I take very, very severely,” Buttigieg mentioned.
Within the meantime, politicians — and the nation — must be “wrapping their arms across the folks of East Palestine,” Buttigieg mentioned, “not as a political soccer, not as an ideological flashpoint, not as a ‘gotcha second,’ however as 1000’s of human beings whose lives received upended … by way of no fault of their very own.”