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Wed. 9:01 a.m.: President Joe Biden to visit East Palestine in February

EAST PALESTINE — After saying for several months that he would visit East Palestine, the site of a Feb. 3, 2023, massive train derailment, President Joe Biden will come to the Columbiana County village sometime in February.

The White House announced today that Biden, a Democrat, will travel to East Palestine in February — a date hasn’t been disclosed — “to meet with residents impacted by the Feb. 3, 2023, Norfolk Southern train derailment and assess the progress that his administration has helped deliver in coordination with state and local leaders to protect the community and hold Norfolk Southern accountable.”

The White House will have a news conference later today with administration officials to discuss the response to the derailment.

Saturday is the one-year anniversary of the derailment.

“As President Biden has said from the beginning, the administration will continue to support the people of East Palestine and other affected communities for as long as it takes, including by using every available tool to hold Norfolk Southern accountable,” a White House statement reads.

Biden has come under criticism from Republicans for not visiting East Palestine despite saying for months that he would come to the village. Some have said Biden ignored East Palestine because it is in Columbiana County, a Republican stronghold.

Biden administration officials — most notably, Michael Regan, director of the Environmental Protection Agency — have been to East Palestine a number of times.

Also, Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the Department of Transportation, came to the village on Feb. 23, 2023. That came a day after former President Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner for this year’s election, visited East Palestine and criticized Biden and his administration for their response to the horrific train derailment.

The White House said today that “in the wake” of the derailment, the Biden administration “mobilized a comprehensive, whole-of-government response to support the people of East Palestine” and nearby affected communities.

Within hours of the derailment, the EPA deployed a team of trained emergency response personnel to East Palestine to aid state and local emergency and environmental response efforts and the DOT was also on the scene within hours to support the National Transportation Safety Board in their independent investigation of the derailment, according to the White House

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also worked with state and local health departments to conduct public health testing and offer technical assistance.

About 50 railroad cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed Feb. 3, 2023, in East Palestine in a fiery crash. Five of the cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a toxic chemical.

The derailment has cost Norfolk Southern $1.1 billion, including $836 million for environmental-related expenses and $381 million for community assistance and legal fees.

For more, read Thursday’s print and online editions.

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