State Senator Michael Rulli (R-OH-Salem) this week criticized President Joe Biden for failing to visit East Palestine, Ohio, after the train derailment and controlled toxic chemical burn.
Biden flew to Ukraine before he could be bothered to even say a word about my constituents suffering in East Palestine.
Joe Biden cares more about funding his proxy war thousands of miles away than he does his own people. pic.twitter.com/eax7ZDVMOh
— Senator Michael Rulli (@michaelrulli) February 21, 2023
Speaking on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton radio show, Rulli described the president’s failure to visit communities surrounding the site where a 53-car train crashed on February 3. Rail company Norfolk Southern subsequently conducted a controlled vent and burn of five rail cars containing vinyl chloride. Biden did, however, visit Ukraine and Poland early this week to express his ongoing support for Ukraine’s military struggle against Russian encroachment — a trip that didn’t escape the state lawmaker’s notice.
“I feel this administration almost has a war on blue-collar America and we’re the forgotten people and it doesn’t really matter what happens to us because we’re not that important, you know?” the senator said. “And if we’re not on either coast, just forget about ‘flyover country.’”
Rulli said it will take $100 million to complete a thorough cleanup of the derailment site so that the 2,100 households in East Palestine as well as area farmland, are safe from contamination beyond what may have already occurred. The incident happened less than a mile from the Pennsylvania border. Communities in the Keystone State counties of Butler and Lawrence have raised local human and livestock health concerns that some attribute to the release of hazardous substances. Rulli said he is hearing from agriculture professionals in his district as well on such issues.
“If you go within 10 miles outside of ground zero, I have 143 farmers that are calling me right now, Clay, and they want to know if they can put their seed in the ground. They’re going to lose everything! Where’s the $100 million I need for that? But, yet, we’re going to give, you know, hundreds of billions of dollars to Ukraine? I mean, how about the American people?” he said.
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Congress approved $113 billion in military and other aid to Ukraine and allied countries in 2022.
Rulli isn’t the only area official dissatisfied with the federal response to the derailment and chemical incineration. On Monday, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway told Fox News he felt the Eastern Europe visit “was the biggest slap in the face that tells you right now he doesn’t care about us.”
On Tuesday, Conaway, a Republican, restated his disappointment in the White House but welcomed the president to visit his village to assure residents of efforts to rid the area of harmful chemicals.
“We don’t want to be political pawns,” he said. “We don’t want to be a sound bite or news bite. We just want to go back to living our lives the way they were.”
Federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has also drawn criticism for failing to visit East Palestine or adjacent areas. On Tuesday, Buttigieg said he would visit the region after investigators departed.
The secretary has meanwhile raised the prospect of heavy fines for Norfolk Southern Corp. for railroad safety violations. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro (D) has likewise promised to hold the rail company accountable for any consequences of a vent-and-burn process he initially supported.
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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Michael Rulli” by The Ohio Senate. Photo “Joe Biden” by President Joe Biden. Background Photo “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in East Palestine, Ohio” by Michael Regan, U.S. EPA.