Obama Imposed Stronger Train Safety Regulations, But Trump Killed Them

In 2015, then-President Obama imposed stronger regulations on trains carrying oil and toxic chemicals. In 2018, Trump got rid of them.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in 2015, “Federal transportation regulators in the U.S. and Canada released a sweeping set of final rules Friday with more stringent requirements for railroads hauling flammable liquids, including crude oil and ethanol…The Department of Transportation rules would require new electronic brake systems for all trains carrying flammable liquids at speeds above 30 miles per hour by the year 2021. Current air brake technology has been in use for more than a century.”

The rail industry didn’t like these new safety rules. They threw a bunch of money at Trump and the GOP, and guess what happened in 2018?

Trump rolled back Obama’s train regulations.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported in 2018, “The U.S. Department of Transportation, which has been working on rescinding the rules since last December, said in statement this week that its analysis showed the cost of requiring railroads to equip trains with the new brakes outweighed the potential benefits.”

This specific policy of Trump’s overturned an Obama policy, reversal of which at the very least may have contributed to the Ohio train disaster.

On Feb. 3, Norfolk Southern Railway train carrying various highly toxic chemicals listed as human carcinogens and toxic flammable gas, including chemicals used in plastic and paint manufacturing, derailed in the small town of 5,000 people in East Palestine, Ohio on the border of Pennsylvania, resulting in a huge fire with thick billowing plumes of smoke. It set off a toxic chemical disaster in the air, soil and water.

Officials conducted what they called a controlled burn of the toxic chemicals and an evacuation order was put in place for residents within a one mile radius of the derailment.

“The chemicals began negatively impacting the environment, such as causing hundreds of fish to die in the Leslie Run stream in East Palestine, Ohio, and harming various other species, such as foxes, coyotes, and birds,” Newsweek reported.

The Ohio river supplies more than 5 million people with drinking water. And yes, “small amounts of the chemicals” were identified in the Ohio River, which winds through or borders Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Both of our major political parties have allowed big business and industry interests to dominate the interests of the people. But in this case, then President Obama put the people first, only to have Trump come into office and reverse that order.

Trump did the bidding of big corporations and it contributed to an environmental disaster along the Ohio River, the scope of which remains unknown.

The people are paying because Trump and his party put big corporate interests ahead of the safety of the American people. Trump’s policies are hurting the people in Appalachia, which is a cruel irony given that he was portrayed as the savior of Appalachia. Trump hurting his own voters is nothing new, but it’s not something we should ever accept as normal or okay.