Biden says he’s been too busy recently to visit East Palestine, Ohio

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A sign reads “Please Pray for EP” along West Main Street in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 16, 2023. (Justin Merriman for the Washington Examiner)

Biden says he’s been too busy recently to visit East Palestine, Ohio

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President Joe Biden cited his busy work schedule when asked why he still has not visited East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a train derailment in February that released dangerous chemicals into the air and local water.

According to a report from Fox News, the topic came up Saturday while Biden was talking to reporters in Live Oak, Florida, where he was surveying the damage from Hurricane Idalia.


“Well, I haven’t had the occasion to go to East Palestine,” Biden said. “There’s a lot going on here, and I just haven’t been able to break.

“I was thinking whether I’d go to East Palestine this week, but I was reminded I’ve got to go literally around the world,” the president continued. “I’m going from Washington to India to Vietnam.”

A Norfolk Southern train carrying numerous toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3. Several rail cars caught fire, and authorities later conducted a controlled burn at the site, releasing substances such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene into the air. Residents within a one-mile radius were evacuated but shortly after were permitted to return.

Early testing by government agencies and outside companies suggested the area was safe to inhabit, but residents continued to complain of various ailments, including rashes, headaches, and nausea. They also reported finding large groups of dead animals and fish, suggesting harmful levels of contamination. Conflicting information and advice from government officials and an apparent reluctance on the part of federal figures such as Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to go to East Palestine eroded faith in the government’s commitment to addressing the problem, and residents vented their frustrations at town halls and in meetings with Northfolk Southern representatives. Buttigieg did visit the community in late February.

Subsequent testing prompted concerns about the safety of the water in the area’s creeks, as well as in some private wells, and residents maintain that emergency response agencies should be doing much more to help test and clean up the town. Many members of the community have told press outlets that they fear developing cancers and other diseases in the coming years as a result of their exposure to hazardous conditions near their homes.

The government’s handling of the derailment has received criticism from environmentalists, as has the conduct of Norfolk Southern, which was widely viewed as having prioritized stock buybacks over rail safety.


Republicans have criticized Biden’s apparent reluctance to appear in East Palestine, while some Democrats have faulted conservatives for spreading what they consider misinformation and conspiracy theories about the event. Former President Donald Trump capitalized on the moment by visiting East Palestine on Feb. 22 and criticizing the federal response, which he termed a “betrayal,” and handing out bottled water and other supplies to residents.

In the wake of wildfires in Hawaii and Hurricane Idalia in Florida, East Palestine residents have again been speaking out, contrasting the help they’ve received, or lack of it, with the resources apparently being mobilized in other states for other disasters.

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