BET À DAY
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, widely criticized by the Republican opposition, said Thursday he regretted not speaking out sooner after a train carrying chemicals derailed, which caused toxic fumes.
Three weeks after this accident, Mr. Buttigieg went to the scene, in the locality of East Palestine in Ohio, where the inhabitants expressed their concern and says they fear developing cancer in the years to come.
The minister praised the “resilience” of the local population in front of the press and said that this accident showed the need for stricter regulations in the rail sector.
When asked about whether he had waited too long to comment on the derailment, Mr. Buttigieg replied “yes”.
“I had strong opinions about it and could have expressed them more early,” he said.
“I've gone to great lengths to respect the role I have and the role I don't. But that should not have prevented me from giving my point of view on what was happening to this population,” he added, explaining in particular that he wanted to let the investigators do their job.
On Thursday, while the minister was in East Palestine, the government agency responsible for investigating transport accidents, the NTSB, released its preliminary investigation report, indicating that the team on board the train had not received a “critical” alarm signal for her to inspect an overheated axle just before the derailment.
The day before, former Republican President Donald Trump had traveled to East Palestine, where he criticized the Biden administration's response to the crash.
Mr. Trump could “express his support for a reversal of the deregulation that happened while he was in charge,” Mr. Buttigieg countered.
“I am here to work, not for political issues,” he added, arguing for stricter rail safety rules.
The minister said that in recent years the business model followed by rail companies has been to “cut, cut, cut” fees, and “it's a security issue”.
“The only real wall you can put up against this is is the regulation”, he insisted, mentioning among other things the number of staff members who must be on board a freight train.