Editorial: Safety advocates vs. industry shysters

Column By John Young

Pete Buttigieg chose his words with care.

In an MSNBC interview, the secretary of transportation easily could have scapegoated someone for the disaster at East Palestine, Ohio.

But an investigation is in the works. As a responsible person, Buttigieg signaled that he’d wait for facts.

Unlike, for instance, someone who hauled a bunch of “Trump” water bottles to the disaster and spewed forth a cole slaw of gibberish and unfounded claims to stoke anger among the traumatized.

They were “betrayed” by the Biden administration, said the blowhard, though officials from the EPA and DOT were immediately in place to investigate.

But, then, Donald Trump is a lifetime shyster who, in the words of The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, is “always selling,” causing him to live his life “in 10-minute increments.”

Big difference there. Trump is selling. Buttigieg is serving.

If he were inclined, Buttigieg could host the same kind of spectacle amid the suffering. He could say it was clear that as president, Trump sold out the folks of East Palestine to railroad giants.

He did not. He did point out, rightly, that Trump approved a “Christmas tree” of deregulatory moves requested by rail corporations to counter safety measures adopted by President Obama.

No revelation there. Trump tweeted it out with pride in 2020. It was in keeping with his vow of revoking two regulations for every one enacted by Obama. If that sounds indiscriminately reckless to you, congratulations. You have reasoning skills.

So, on Capitol Hill last week in the wake of East Palestine, lawmakers concerned about this matter proposed a bipartisan package of tighter rail safety regulations. Nothing of the sort would have emerged from a Congress cowed by Trump.

Under Trump, corporate interests always prevailed at the expense of public health. Under Biden, priorities have changed.

Consider the lingering menace of “forever chemicals” under the abbreviated umbrella term PFAS. The Biden administration has taken an aggressive stance against these substances commonly found in water that weaken children’s immune systems.

This is a tough and costly challenge. However, if the Environmental Protection Agency is what it claims to be, it cannot do what Trump’s EPA did: dismiss the science and lowball the threat.

Lots of people celebrated Biden’s election – none more so than scientists at the EPA who saw this happening.

Regarding permissible levels of PFAS, almost the moment Biden became president, the EPA’s Office of Safety and Pollution ditched criteria adopted under Trump which, scientists said, violated the EPA’s “scientific integrity policy.”

Let’s just say that the people of East Palestine, and those who face similar situations, are going to be served much better in terms of addressing the environmental problems posed by the train derailment under this administration than under the one who threw paper towels to the people of Puerto Rico.

While we have catastrophes that happen in a split second, we have others, like the contamination from PFAS, that stretch out over generations.

One such matter is the devastation of wetlands, which not only help clean waterways but also sustain ecosystems.

Recently the Biden administration finalized regulations to protect thousands of wetlands and small streams that had been exposed to pollution and faced being wiped off the map by development.

The action was needed because the courts threw out a Trump-era rule favored by developers and land owners.

Protections that stood up in court had been adopted by Obama, but Trump took his Sharpie to them, replaced with rules that contravened the Clean Water Act.

Americans need to understand which party’s philosophy is geared toward protecting them and which is geared toward protecting corporate bottom lines.

Trump said Biden and Buttigieg, whose track record is solidly behind public safety, “abandoned” the people of East Palestine. Then Trump flew back to his coastal castle to plan how next he could exploit the little man’s trauma.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed in this editorial are those of the author.