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President Biden on Norfolk Southern derailment responsibility in East Palestine: 'This is their mess. They should clean it up.'

'I want affected residents to know that we’ve got your back.'

CLEVELAND — In a series of tweets sent out on Tuesday, President Joe Biden affirmed that it will be up to Norfolk Southern to handle responsibility for the cleanup of the recent East Palestine train derailment.

In addition, the president provided an update on the coordination between federal, state, and local resources, while also taking rail companies like Norfolk Southern to task for opposing safety regulations over the years.

The tweets come as Biden visits Ukraine and surrounding areas on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.

Here is a rundown of President Biden's tweets: 

1. After giving a speech in Poland, Biden says he spoke to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). All were in East Palestine on Tuesday for a news conference. 

2. "Today, the @EPA ordered the train company, Norfolk Southern, to pay for the clean-up and disposal of hazardous materials. This is common sense. This is their mess. They should clean it up."

3. "Our team is working in lockstep with state and local officials and were on the ground hours after the train derailed."

  • "@EPA is monitoring air and water quality 
  • We've screened 500+ homes
  • @CDCgov has deployed chemical assessment personnel 
  • We've deployed @FEMA resources"

4. "The @USDOT (Dept. of Transportation) has made clear to rail companies that their pattern of resisting safety regulations has got to change.  Congress should join us in implementing rail safety measures. But the @USDOT is limited in the rail safety measures they can implement. Why?

For years, elected officials – including the last admin – have limited our ability to implement and strengthen rail safety measures.

Heck, many of the elected officials pointing fingers right now want to dismantle the EPA – the agency that is making sure this clean up happens."

5. "Rail companies have spent millions of dollars to oppose common-sense safety regulations. And it’s worked. This is more than a train derailment or a toxic waste spill – it’s years of opposition to safety measures coming home to roost.

We'll continue to hold rail companies accountable when they fail to put safety first. But first, we’ve got Norfolk Southern’s mess to clean. I want affected residents to know that we’ve got your back.  And as I said to your govs, they'll have every resource that they need."

President Biden has drawn criticism from many, especially those on the political right, for opting to make the trip to Ukraine instead of visiting East Palestine. The village's mayor, Trent Conaway, called Biden's trip to the war-torn region "the biggest slap in the face" during an appearance on Fox News.

"That tells you right now he doesn't care about us," the mayor, whose office is officially nonpartisan, told Jesse Watters. "He can send every agency he wants to, but I found that out this morning in one of the briefings that he was in the Ukraine giving millions of dollars away to people over there and not to us, and I'm furious."

Biden's tweets come amid a busy week in East Palestine as cleanup efforts continue. Also on Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health opened its Health Assessment Clinic for those East Palestine residents affected by the derailment. The clinic is offers residents a chance to share their medical concerns with registered nurses and mental health specialists on-site. Toxicologists will also be available on-site or by phone. 

On Wednesday, former President Donald Trump plans to visit the area. In preparation for Trump's appearance, East Palestine City Schools announced that they will be closed on Wednesday due to "heightened security measures" and the "significant number of street closures."

Friday, activist Erin Brockovich will hold a town hall in East Palestine, and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says he will visit "at some point."

The wreck occurred on Feb. 3, when the 150-car Norfolk Southern freight train came off the tracks and caught fire. Due to the potential for an explosion, officials evacuated everyone within a one-mile radius and conducted a "controlled release" of hazardous chemicals. Although residents were cleared to return home just days following the release, there continue to be health and safety concerns.

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