President Joe Biden on Thursday said he’ll travel to East Palestine, Ohio, “at some point” as residents continue pressing health and safety fears following the fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals last month.
After attending a Senate Democratic luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, Biden told reporters he’s been in touch with officials responding to the crisis in the town near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
“I’ve spoken with every official in Ohio, Democrat and Republican, on a continuous basis, as in Pennsylvania,” Biden said. “I laid out a little bit in there what I think the answers are, and we put it together. And we will be implementing an awful lot to the legislation here.”
“And I will be out there at some point,” he added.
Last week, Biden had told reporters he had no plans to visit East Palestine “at this moment.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shared no further details during Thursday’s briefing.
Ohio’s two senators, Sherrod Brown (D) and J.D. 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 that includes new safety rules for railway companies to help prevent future train disasters.
“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” Vance said. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg became the highest administration official to visit East Palestine last week. He urged “any national political figure who has decided to get involved in the plight of East Palestine” to work with his department to prevent future accidents.
Former President Donald Trump also visited the site of the derailment last week, alongside Vance, as he campaigns for the White House in 2024.
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 in there. Within two hours. Every major agency in the United States government that had anything to do rail and or cleanup was there, and is there,” he said.
Meanwhile, East Palestine residents on Thursday said they’re still experiencing health issues during a town hall with officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and a lone representative of 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 plastics that has been linked to cancer.
Alan Shaw, the CEO of Norfolk Southern, is due to appear before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works next week.