President Biden will visit East Palestine, Ohio, in February to mark the one-year anniversary of the toxic derailment that plunged the small community into a health and environmental crisis, the White House announced Wednesday.
Biden has faced criticism from political leaders and residents for delaying a visit, which he had promised to make a month after the Feb. 3, 2023, derailment. The White House did not specify when Biden would visit in February.
The Biden administration has sent a steady flow of resources to East Palestine and is overseeing cleanup efforts by Norfolk Southern, the railroad company responsible for the derailment. Management has maintained that the company should be responsible for the cost of cleanup and other solutions.
But political pressure has mounted as residents expressed deep fears about persistent pollution and Republicans seized on the issue. Former President Donald J. Trump, Biden’s likely rival in the presidential campaign, visited East Palestine and told the crowd: “You are not forgotten.”
In January, both the mayor and residents of East Palestine sent letters to the White House asking Biden to visit them and hear their lingering concerns himself.
In a Jan. 12 letter obtained by The New York Times, Mayor Trent Conaway wrote that the derailment “has damaged the soul of our Northern Appalachian communities.”
A separate letter from residents said that as the one-year anniversary approached, “our community remains deeply affected.”
“While we are strong and resilient people, we also deserve to be heard,” the letter said.
“We ask you to demonstrate that the highest office in the world does not abandon hardworking Americans in the face of adversity. As president of the people, by the people and for the people, we trust that you will act.”
The train was carrying more than 700,000 pounds of vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used to produce pipes, furniture and packaging, when it jumped the tracks. Much of that cargo was incinerated by emergency services, in what is known as a controlled burn to prevent a wider explosion.