IF YOU’RE SO CONCERNED ABOUT TRAIN DERAILMENTS, PASS A BILL.
Call it the J.D. Vance Rail Safety Act, I don’t care. Just don’t pretend.
Politicians are descending on East Palestine, Ohio - Trump Country - to be seen caring about the people there now that a Norfolk Southern train derailment has spread toxic chemicals all over their town. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine initially thought his people could handle it but now he finally has asked the federal government for help. Just as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did after the most recent hurricane - but DeSantis did it much more quickly. The federal government dispatched aid to predominately white Fort Myers, Florida, just as it now has done to predominantly white East Palestine. One of the Republican talking points in this disaster is that if this had been a black town, the feds would have been in there right away (witness: Flint, Michigan). But it takes a Governor’s request for disaster assistance, that’s part of the states-rights clause of the United States Constitution. That’s so the feds don’t overstep their authority except in extremely rare circumstances (witness: Little Rock, Arkansas).
Now East Palestine is the epi-center of divisive American politics when there is a very simply solution.
Congress, pass a bill.
To re-instate the Obama Administration requirement for special brakes on toxic chemicals-carrying trains. It wouldn’t have helped in this case (but it could in others) because the train did not have the number of cars to trigger the special brakes rule - which was repealed by the Trump Administration. That was when Mitch McConnell’s wife was the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Now the Biden Administration’s Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, is left to clean up the mess. This is a two-fer for the Republicans, not only can they criticize but not really help in the clean-up but they can derail the presidential aspirations of Buttigieg, who one day might make a serious bid to become the first openly gay President of the United States.
Congress has now gone through its re-organization process. It has taken down the metal detectors, put away the masks, given away the Jan. 6, 2021 videotapes, and allows Congressmen and women to carry guns so they can help defend against the next American Insurrection which is bound to happen on January 7, 2025, when Congress will again gather to certify the votes of an American Presidential Election.
Congress, now, can start passing bills.
So, do it.
Send the bipartisan rail safety act to President Biden’s desk, And, then, ENFORCE IT. Make it so that Norfolk Southern doesn’t have to “decide” to pay for the East Palestine clean-up. Make it so they must - it can come from some of the $7 Billion they are distributing to shareholders.
And, make them establish a fund that repairs East Palestine for at least a decade to come. Make this town the model for the world in how to overcome a man-made disaster.
These people must think they are living in a movie, an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it epic that Hollywood loves to create. Only this is real. And there are thousands of towns in this country just like them (witness: Graniteville, South Carolina).
We, in Clinton, should be sympathetic to this issue.
Hundreds of trains pass through our Uptown every week. You can’t turn around in Clinton without having to wait on a train. Our county’s water and sewer commission was delayed on an important sewer project because CSX couldn’t find a flagman, wouldn’t let LCWSC’s contractor hire their own flagman, and insisted that this union position must wave the flags at the intersection of Hwy 76 and Springdale Drive in Clinton. My guess is to prevent a derailment.
Think it can’t happen here? It just happened in Enoree.
So, Congress, the ball is in your court. Stop fighting the culture wars. Do not filibuster - do not collect $200 for passing go. Pass a bill.
It’s a no-brainer (the bill, not congress).
Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. In June, 2025, he will observe his 50th year in community journalism. Reach him at 864-833-1900.
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