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Biden: East Palestine toxic train derailment ‘an act of greed’

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The president visited East Palestine, Ohio, on Friday, where he rebuked last year’s toxic train derailment there as ‘an act of greed’ not an ‘act of God.”

“While there are acts of God, this was an act of greed that was 100% preventable,” President Joe Biden said during a news conference. “Let me say it again – an act of greed that was 100% preventable.”

The visit comes weeks after the administration announced Biden’s impending visit, fulfilling a promise he made in March to visit the site and impacted communities on either side of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

“I want to continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable,” Biden said. “Make sure they make your community whole now and in the future. And what they do not make whole … the government will make whole. We have an obligation.”

The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train, just east of the town center, led to a conflagration when officials decided to burn off vinyl chloride, exposing residents and nature to chemical smoke and fumes.

That decision, as well as the lasting environmental and economic damage to the region, came under scrutiny in the following months as residents described to The Center Square their growing distrust of the railroad and the federal government.

It also spawned a yearlong investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, which expects to release its findings on the cause of the accident in June.

Though Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and EPA Administration Michael Regan made trips to East Palestine since the accident, Biden had yet to do so until Friday.

While there Friday, the president promised the federal government won’t leave until the recovery is finished – no matter how many years it takes. Grants from the National Institutes of Health have also been awarded to six different research facilities to further study the environmental impacts of the derailment.

Biden said Congress also needs to pass the Railroad Safety Act and legislation that would make liability compensation untaxable.

“That’s not taxable income to them,” Biden said. “We’ve got to make sure that that occurred that no one is taxed for anything that is reimbursed or received from Norfolk Southern.”

In March, Gov. Josh Shapiro said he brokered a $7.4 million aid deal with the railroad to help communities in western Pennsylvania recover from the disaster.