Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced he will visit East Palestine, Ohio, on Thursday, nearly three weeks after a Northern Southern train derailed, prompting environmental concerns.
His stop will mark the highest-level visit by a federal official to the area since the derailment. Buttigieg’s arrival comes a day after Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan provided an update on the federal government’s response in the town.
Buttigieg will be on hand as the National Transportation Safety Board releases its initial findings on the cause of the derailment. Buttigieg is also expected to call on additional oversight of the rail industry.
In an interview with CBS News, the transportation secretary acknowledged he should have spoken out sooner about the East Palestine incident.
“I was focused on just making sure that our folks on the ground were all set but could have spoken sooner about how strongly I felt about this incident and that’s a lesson learned for me,” Buttigieg told the network.
In the days following the Feb. 3 derailment, toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, were released into the atmosphere to stave off an explosion. The chemicals' release into the atmosphere has prompted state and federal officials to test the region’s water and air quality. So far, officials have stated the air is safe to breathe and the water is safe to drink.
On Tuesday, the EPA stated that Norfolk Southern must pay for clean-up costs. The EPA is also requiring the company to meet and provide updates to residents.