White House: ‘We don’t have a plan’ for Biden to visit East Palestine, Ohio, despite promise
President Biden has no scheduled plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio in the foreseeable future.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a Friday press briefing that the president is open to visiting the site of the disastrous train derailment, but had no scheduled plans.
“We don’t have a plan for the president to go at this time,” Jean-Pierre said. “We don’t have anything to preview to all of you at this time.”
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“I believe you heard from the president just yesterday who said that he is planning to go there at some point,” she said. “When that happens, we’re going to coordinate with state and local officials to make that trip occur.”
A freight train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in the small town on Feb. 3, spurring environmental and health concerns among residents there.
“What the president has been focused on is making sure that we make the community, the people in East Palestine, whole again — to make sure that they get what they need to feel safe, to make sure that they feel like their community is healthy again,” she continued.
Biden said on Thursday that he will visit East Palestine “at some point” after growing pressure to do so from both sides of the aisle.
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Residents of East Palestine and the surrounding area, including part of Pennsylvania, have been voicing concerns about the health risks after hazardous chemicals that the Norfolk Southern freight train was carrying were burned at the site, sending a plume of thick black smoke into the sky.
Officials including Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine have insisted the water and air there are safe.
However, multiple reports show that people living there have listed an array of worrying symptoms, including headaches, dizziness and nausea, in the weeks since the derailment.
“You’ve seen the EPA administrator. He was just there for a third time,” the press secretary concluded at the Friday press conference. “And so the president is committed. He’s keeping abreast or updated on a daily basis on what’s going on on the ground. He’s talked to the governor of Ohio, spoken to the governor of Pennsylvania, the senators multiple times to make sure that they are getting everything that they need from the federal government.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine last week, though he was criticized for not addressing the incident sooner.
Biden officials have rebuffed such attacks by blaming the derailment on the Trump administration’s scaling back of rail regulations.