President Biden was panned for a tweet Tuesday promising that climate investments will ensure “our kids will breathe cleaner air” as his administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under fire for its handling of the Ohio train derailment and health concerns over toxic chemicals are mounting.
“Because of our climate investments, our kids will breathe cleaner air, drink safer water, and get to school powered by clean energy,” Biden tweeted Tuesday morning. The president added, “That’s the future we’re building,” tapping EPA Administrator Michael Regan, “let’s finish the job.”
Twitter users, however, accused the timing of the tweet of being “tone deaf,” as concerned residents who live miles away from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment are telling local news outlets that they’re still smelling lingering odors in the atmosphere. Some reported developing worsening coughs. Others expressed fears of drinking or bathing in the water coming from their faucets despite water utilities across state lines in West Virginia taking precautions and local officials assuring it’s safe.
One resident of North Lima, more than 10 miles from East Palestine, told WKBN-TV that her five hens and rooster mysteriously slowed before ultimately dropping dead this week, spurring fears among other animal owners that livestock might be exposed to chemicals through the air, water and soil.
“Not in Ohio,” one Twitter wrote, replying to Biden’s tweet.
“Does Ohio not exist to this guy? Extremely poor timing to talk about the climate,” another user added.
“The audacity of this statement considering what’s going on in Ohio and it’s [sic] surrounding states. Yet, once again, Biden remains mum on the subject,” a third wrote.
In a Feb. 10 letter, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified Norfolk Southern Railway Company of the threat of additional pollutants or contaminants released into the environment from the East Palestine derailment site. In addition to vinyl chloride, the chemical widely reported after the controlled release, the letter said multiple rail cars and tankers were observed derailed, breached, and/or on fire, that included but were not limited to ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and butyl acrylate.
The EPA admitted, “vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether are known to have been and continue to be released to the air, surface soils, and surface waters.” Also of concern are phosgene gas and hydrogen chloride, which the EPA detected in air monitoring.
One outraged Twitter user noted that phosgene gas was used as a “choking agent” in World War I, condemning Biden as a “blight on humanity.”
“This idiot nuked Ohio. And he wants to talk about clean air?” another user wrote.
At approximately 8:55 p.m. on Feb. 3, about 50 of a Norfolk Southern train’s 150 cars derailed in East Palestine, an Ohio village of some 4,700 residents about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. The EPA confirmed approximately 20 of those rail cars were listed as carrying hazardous materials. Residents on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border were ordered to evacuate amid fears of a possible explosion as a fire sent smoke billowing into the air.
Three days later, authorities held a controlled release of the chemicals.
Five rail car tankers of vinyl chloride were intentionally breached, and the chemical was diverted to an excavated trench and then burned off. The EPA said areas of contaminated soil and free liquids were observed and potentially covered and/or filled during reconstruction of the rail line, including portions of the burn pit.
On Feb. 8, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told residents they could return home and air quality samples in the area were showing readings below safety screening levels for contaminants. As of Monday, the EPA said 291 homes have been screened and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified to date. There were 181 homes that remain to be screened.
On Tuesday, Biden’s official account shared a Jan. 10 video from Regan during a visit to Bucyrus, Kansas, following the president’s State of the Union address. While there, Regan says he took a ride on the first-ever electric school bus in Kansas thanks to the EPA’s Clean School Buses Program.
He also shows drones in the skies at Guetterman Brothers Family Farms, saying he was “looking how advanced technology will usher in clean tech and combat the climate crisis.”
“And thanks to President Biden’s leadership, we are delivering on the president’s promise to invest in America and rural Americans would not be left behind,” Regan adds.