The President

Biden visits East Palestine for first time since 2023 train derailment

The president commended the city's strength while reaffirming his administration would continue researching the event's effects on residents.

Biden visits East Palestine for first time since 2023 train derailment
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President Joe Biden visited East Palestine, Ohio, on Friday, marking over a year since a fiery train derailment released masses of toxic chemicals into the environment.

In a six-minute speech, the president promised to hold railroad operator Norfolk Southern accountable for the "100% preventable" catastrophe, which he called not an "act of "God" but an "act of greed," and urged Congress to pass a bipartisan rail-safety law.

He also commended the still-reeling residents for their "herculean efforts" in the event's aftermath, and announced federal grants would be utilized to study its long- and short-term consequences.

"We're not going home, no matter what, until this job is done, and it's not done yet," he said. "There's a lot more to do. The vast majority's been done, but we're going to stay until the very end, until every need is met."

The White House has repeatedly said the president wouldn't visit the village of 5,000 until its mayor invited him — an invitation that indeed led to this long-awaited visit. 

But the wait has been criticized by some locals and Republicans, who say the leader is ignoring the victims and their questions about the catastrophe's long-term health effects. 

Derailed: East Palestine, 1 year later
Derailed: East Palestine, 1 year later

Derailed: East Palestine, 1 year later

Scripps News visits East Palestine one year after a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed.

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That criticism lingered a bit on Friday, with hostile feelings presented in protesters' signs reading "President Biden — we need a safe home now!" or in profane shouts as his motorcade arrived. Others held flags for the Democrat's likely Republican competitor in the upcoming election, former President Donald Trump.

Trump visited East Palestine about three weeks after the Feb. 3, 2023 disaster and criticized President Biden's absence, which he repeated in a post on Truth Social earlier this week, writing, "Biden should have gone there a long time ago -- for him to go now is an insult to those who live and work in East Palestine." 

And the former president apparently left his mark on the town, as a rally for the GOP front-runner was held at the same time as President Biden's visit,  and East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway has endorsed Trump in the 2024 race.

Conaway had heavily criticized President Biden for visiting Ukraine instead of East Palestine after the crash, but on Friday, he put his views aside to welcome the leader's assistance.

"President Biden, your long-awaited visit to our village today allows us to focus on the things we agree with, acknowledge this disaster should never happen, address the long-term health concerns and the economic growth of the village and ensure this never happens again to another community," Conaway said.

Despite the prior criticism, the president and Environmental Protection Administration administrator Michael Regan stressed that the White House has been focused on the town's recuperation since the start, noting the nearly immediate assistance of federal responders who continue to assist today.

Though nobody was killed in the crash, its aftermath sent more than 1 million pounds of toxins into East Palestine's air, water and soil. Some residents had to evacuate, while others who stayed reported symptoms like rashes, sore throats and headaches that they feared were related to the hazardous atmosphere.

Norfolk Southern has said it's spent roughly $1.1 billion in cleanup and resident relief since, and the Environmental Protection Agency has assisted in the intense cleanup. Though residents are skeptical, the EPA has said the town's air, water and soil are now safe.