Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Tuesday he plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a train derailment and chemical spill. However, he did not lay out a timeline for his visit.
"I was mayor of my hometown for eight years. We dealt with a lot of disasters, natural and human, and one of the things I noticed very quickly is that there's two kinds of people who show up when you have that kind of disaster experience— people who are there because they have a specific job to do and are there to get something done and people who are there to look good and have their picture taken," Buttigieg said on ABC's Good Morning America.
Buttigieg noted that people from his department have been on the ground since hours after the crash on Feb. 3. He also said the National Transportation Safety Board needs room to do their job and investigate the cause of the crash.
"When I go, it will be about action on rail safety," Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg penned a sharply-worded letter to the train's operator, Norfolk Southern, this week. He said he will be asking Congress to raise the cap on fines for violating safety regulations. He. noted Tuesday that the cap is $250,000, which he said is "dust" for companies like Norfolk Southern, which had an operating income of $4.8 billion in 2022.
"I expect that Norfolk Southern and other railroads will take action now, not later, to address public safety concerns and better prevent future disasters," Buttigieg wrote.
The CEO of Norfolk Southern wrote an open letter to East Palestine last week, saying the company is committed to ensuring that the area recovers and thrives.