President Pledges Assistance ‘Until Every Need Is Met’

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio – President Joe Biden on Friday reiterated his administration’s commitment to holding Norfolk Southern responsible for the train derailment that upended life in this Columbiana County village just over a year ago.

Biden delivered brief remarks beginning at 4:39 p.m. that were live-streamed by WFMJ. It was his first visit to East Palestine since the Feb. 3, 2023, disaster that forced evacuations in the village and where recovery efforts have been underway for more than a year.

“We’re going to stay until the very end, until every need is met,” the president said after receiving a briefing from local officials. “And I want to continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and make sure they make your community whole.”

Multibillion-dollar railroad companies that transport toxic chemicals have a responsibility to do it safely, he said.

Michael Regan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, said the Biden administration “has stood shoulder to shoulder with East Palestine every single day” since the derailment. EPA continues to direct the cleanup efforts and, to date, has removed more than 176,000 tons of contaminated soil from the community for disposal and shipped more than 43 millions gallons of water offsite, he said. More than 115 million air monitoring data points and more than 45,000 samples on and around the community have been collected.

“As President Biden has stated, we’ve held Norfolk Southern accountable for the harm that they have inflicted on this community. We have leveraged every enforcement tool available to EPA against Norfolk Southern to ensure that they complete and they pay for the extensive cleanup activities conducted over the last year,” Regan said.

“And what they do not make whole, what they cannot make whole, the government will make whole,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden speaks in East Palestine on Friday. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

Biden, who has come under harsh criticism for not visiting East Palestine before now, also announced the award of six National Institutes of Health grants “to some of America’s best research universities to study the short- and long-term impacts” of the derailment. Additionally, he reiterated his support for bipartisan railroad safety legislation and federal tax relief for funds paid by Norfolk Southern to East Palestine residents.

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway expressed his appreciation to the administration as well as to state and local officials for their assistance over the past year.

“President Biden, your long-awaited visit to our village today allows us to focus on the things we agree with,” he said. These include acknowledging this disaster should never have happened, addressing long-term health concerns and the economic growth of the village and ensuring a situation like this never happens again to another community.

Biden said he could see that the derailment would not define the community. “It just defines you in a different way – your courage, the resilience of this community,” he said.

Biden’s motorcade arrived in East Palestine at 4:17 p.m., where he received a briefing by local officials on the continuing response and cleanup efforts, according to White House pool reports. On hand were several protesters, more than one of whom gave the middle finger or thumbs down gesture. Signs seen included ones saying, “Go home, sleepy Joe” and “F— Biden.”

Air Force One arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport just before 2:30 p.m., the WFMJ livestream showed. After speaking with several individuals on the tarmac, including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Biden entered the presidential state car, nicknamed “the Beast,” at 2:45 p.m. for the drive to East Palestine.

Biden departed the airport about 2:52 p.m. En route to the Ohio village, Biden stopped in Darlington, Pa., to meet with first responders. The president entered the Darlington Municipal complex at 3:25 p.m. Working his way along the greeter line, he complimented the work of first responders.

Pictured at top: President Joe Biden talks with East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway as Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan, right, and fire chief Keith Drabick, left, listen during a tour of the East Palestine recovery site Friday. (AP Photo | Andrew Harnik)

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