President Joe Biden has managed to schedule a visit to the community of East Palestine, Ohio on February 3. This will mark the one-year anniversary of the train derailment that spilled tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous materials into the soil, air, and water of the community and surrounding area.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) had said in a statement to The Hill a month after the event: “My understanding is that [President Biden] hopes and plans to [visit East Palestine] in the not-too-distant future. As you know, he’s got more on his plate than I could ever imagine dealing with.”
A two-hour flight from Washington D.C. to the Ohio – Pennsylvania border wasn’t on Biden’s plate in February of 2023. He had commitments on the other side of the planet in Ukraine, which he visited two and a half weeks later.
The administration had brushed aside discussion of the topic. The president himself dismissively said he would go “at some point”, and his allies said he should visit “when the time is right.”
Apparently, the time is right during an election year when the incumbent Democrat is falling in the polls. One year ago, however, a show of support to a state carried heavily by Donald Trump in 2020 was not in the cards.
Former President Trump indeed got a warm reception when he visited East Palestine during Biden’s Ukraine visit. He donated water and cleaning supplies to the recovery efforts.
America Last Joe Biden is finally scheduled to visit East Palestine, Ohio one YEAR after the train derailment.
What is even the point anymore? Elections?
President Trump visits the people of East Palestine, Ohio. Truckloads of food, water, and supplies were delivered. https://t.co/FkucBPOl1i
— 🇺🇸 Pismo 🇺🇸 (@Pismo_B) January 31, 2024
During a press briefing ahead of Biden’s visit, one reporter seemed to befuddle White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre with this question: “Next month, when the president is in East Palestine, will he drink the water there?”
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway said in a Fox News interview: “my personal opinion the best time for him to come would be February of 2025 when he is on his book tour.”
The mayor said the President was always welcome to visit, but “I don’t know what he would do here now.”
The February 2023 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio involved 51 cars, 38 of which released thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals, including Benzene and Vinyl chloride. Fires burned for several days, and major clean-up efforts lasted until October 2023. Fears of years-long repercussions due to contaminated soil and water continue to haunt area residents.