While the Biden administration previously refused to send FEMA assistance to the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, they have suddenly changed their minds. Coincidentally, the decision came right after it was revealed that former President Donald Trump will be visiting the area.
On February 3, a roughly 50-car Norfolk Southern Railroad train transporting vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine Ohio.
The Biden administration has been criticized for their lack of a proper response to the disaster, as they essentially ignored the incident and did not send any officials to visit the site. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg faced the brunt of the backlash, with many arguing that this is yet another example of his absence during times of crisis.
According to a report from Fox News, Trump plans to take a trip to East Palestine on Wednesday.
The former president — who announced his 2024 presidential campaign in November — reportedly plans to visit the area in response to the disaster, and will meet with members of the community, a source familiar with Trump’s plans told Fox News.
The train derailment has had disastrous consequences for the people living in the area, with Fox News noting: “The company opted to release the gas from the derailed cars, releasing potentially deadly fumes and other dangerous chemicals into the air, to prevent a disastrous explosion. Local residents were told to evacuate the area during the release, but were assured it was safe to return on Feb. 9.”
Visited a local creek in East Palestine today. These waterways are still very polluted. It’s time for Norfolk Southern to finish the cleanup. Check this video out: pic.twitter.com/4lsHBmrMJj
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) February 16, 2023
East Palestine residents have also reported severe symptoms that resulted from the toxins and chemicals that seeped into the air and water from the disaster.
Coincidentally, the Biden administration announced on Friday that it would be sending medical personnel and toxicologists from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to the area in response to the disaster.
This comes nearly two weeks after the train derailed, and is a change from their previous statements that they would not be sending federal assistance.
A Biden administration official claimed that “what East Palestine needs is much more expansive than what FEMA can provide. FEMA is on the frontlines when there is a hurricane or tornado. This situation is different.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) requested assistance from the HHS and CDC on February 16 after his requests were turned down by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“The DeWine Administration has been in daily contact with FEMA to discuss the need for federal support, however, FEMA continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time,” the governor’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
Now, the Biden administration is changing its tune, announcing a decision to send FEMA to help “about two hours after Fox News first reported that Trump was going to visit the impacted town,” according to PJ Media.
In a joint statement released on Friday, DeWine and FEMA regional administrator Thomas Sivak announced the agency’s plans to assist.
“FEMA and the State of Ohio have been in constant contact regarding emergency operations in East Palestine. U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one,” the joint statement read. “Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long-term recovery needs.”
Tomorrow, we'll supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official & a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination & ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs.https://t.co/pVLIm5tE3h
— FEMA (@fema) February 18, 2023