Transportation Sec. Buttigieg to visit Ohio ‘when the time is right’

by sam

Samuel Case, FISM News

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday that he will visit the site of the February 3 Ohio train derailment “when the time is right,” as he comes under increasing fire for his response to the disaster that caused a massive release of highly toxic chemicals.

“I am very interested in getting to know the residents of East Palestine, hearing from them about how they’ve been impacted and communicating with them about the steps that we’re taking,” Secretary Buttigieg told reporters in a call on Monday per CNN. He added, “When the time is right, I do plan to visit East Palestine. I don’t have a date for you right now.”

In the call, Buttigieg said he’s following the practice of previous transportation secretaries by deferring to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after a train derailment. 

The Secretary has previously said he does not want to interfere with the ongoing NTSB investigation. “I do want to stress that the NTSB needs to be able to do its work independently,” Buttigieg told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” 

In that same interview, Buttigieg said there are “two kinds of people who show up” to disaster sites, “people who were there because they have a specific job to do and are there to get something done, and people were there to look good and have their picture taken,” he said, in what the New York Post notes is likely a veiled reference to former President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Ohio this week.  

“When I go, it will be about action on real safety, like the actions that we are calling on Congress to help us with, that we’re calling on industry to take, and that we are undertaking ourselves as a department to help make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future.”

Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated with Buttigieg, as weeks have passed without him visiting the disaster site. Some are now calling for his removal. 

“For two years, Secretary Buttigieg downplayed and ignored crisis after crisis, while prioritizing topics of little relevance to our nation’s transportation system,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote in a Feb. 16 letter to President Joe Biden requesting Buttigieg’s removal.

Rubio noted Buttigieg’s absence during the maritime supply chain crisis in 2021 and his failure to adequately respond to last Thanksgiving’s glut of airport delays and flight cancellations, among other shortcomings.