Tuesday, February 28, 2023

No, Trump’s deregulation didn’t cause the East Palestine train disaster

 No, Trump’s deregulation didn’t cause the East Palestine train disaster

Trump East Palestine Ohio train derailment
Former President Donald Trump speaks at East Palestine Fire Department during a visit on Feb. 22 to East Palestine, Ohio, following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment.
(Jabin BotsfordThe Washington Post via Getty Images)

Facts are stubborn things. So, the best way for Democrats to push a good partisan narrative is to ignore them entirely.

That’s what many on the Left are doing right now in the aftermath of a disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. They’re attempting to pin the blame for the ensuing chemical disaster on former President Donald Trump and “deregulation” more broadly, arguing that the Trump administration repealed an Obama-era safety rule that could’ve prevented this tragic accident.

Progressive voices ranging from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the White House to the popular “Pod Save America” hosts and huge liberal social media pages such as Occupy Democrats have made this accusation or insinuation.

There’s just one problem: It’s complete nonsense. We can debate the pros and cons of that regulation, but it has nothing to do with the current controversy. As a simple matter of fact, it would not have applied to the train that derailed in East Palestine.

You don’t have to take my word for it; take it from the New York Times, hardly a pro-Trump or anti-regulation source.

“Since the Feb. 3 derailment in Ohio, some lawmakers and activists have pointed to a 2015 safety regulation adopted by the Obama administration as an example of the changes that they say are needed to make railroads safer. … But after lobbying by the railroad industry, the Trump administration repealed the rule in 2018,” the New York Times reports . Yet it goes on to admit that: “Had the rule remained in effect, it would not have applied to the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine.”

The New York Times's source for this is Jennifer Homendy, a Democrat and head of the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Anyone speculating about what happened, didn’t happen, or should've happened is misleading a suffering community — PLEASE STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION,” Homendy said in a Twitter thread . “For example … Some are saying the ECP (electronically controlled pneumatic) brake rule, if implemented, would’ve prevented this derailment. FALSE — here’s why.”

“The ECP braking rule would’ve applied ONLY to HIGH HAZARD FLAMMABLE TRAINS,” she explained. “The train that derailed in East Palestine was a MIXED FREIGHT TRAIN. This means even if the rule had gone into effect, this train wouldn't have had ECP brakes.”

And, what’s more, even if the train had had ECP brakes, it still wouldn’t have prevented the disaster, Homendy says.

So, it’s simply factually bankrupt to push the narrative that blame for this disaster lies at Republicans’ feet for their deregulation. It may well be that the company messed up big-time here. It’s entirely possible that some hypothetical regulation could’ve prevented it. But it’s also possible that it’s a freak accident no one could’ve prevented or that the company messed up in ways already contrary to current rules and regulations.

We simply don’t know.

The rush to find someone to blame or a preexisting ideological narrative to superimpose this incident onto is deeply counterproductive. On that front, it’s also worth noting that, while their response can certainly be criticized, this disaster wasn’t caused by President Joe Biden or Buttigieg, either.

Everyone involved should focus less on finding a partisan scapegoat and more on helping the victims of this disaster.


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