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WaPo Couldn't Find a Single Regulatory Change Made Under Trump That Contributed to Ohio Train Derailment

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When the WaPo ain’t even on your side, it’s time for the Democrats to give up the ship. Or the train wreck, as the case may be.

I mean the ship part figuratively, of course, but the train-wreck part literally; in the three-odd weeks since the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, President Joe Biden’s administration has been implicitly blaming former President Donald Trump for the wreck, claiming he rolled back standards on brakes for freight trains carrying hazardous materials.

Here’s Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for instance, saying on Twitter that the administration was “constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe.”

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Now, granted, despite Harry Truman’s famous maxim, the norm for U.S. presidential administrations has been to say that the buck stops with the guy who held office before me. (Provided, of course, he was of the opposing party.)

However, in the Biden administration’s case, these are a set of very specific allegations, all mostly to deflect from the fact the administration bungled the response, at the very least from a public relations standpoint. (Buttigieg, for instance, didn’t visit East Palestine until over two weeks after the accident — and President Biden still hasn’t visited or announced a visit.)

And, at least in the estimation of head Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler, complete bunkum.

Now, granted, Kessler wasn’t fact-checking the numerous implications by Biden officials that the regulatory changes under the Trump administration caused the wreck, at least not directly. Instead, he was fact-checking Trump’s own assertion that “I had nothing to do with it.”

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The fact that the denial is what’s being fact-checked — instead of the meritless accusations — speaks volumes about the Post’s leanings, but at least they didn’t contend the statement was false: “So far, Trump’s rollback of regulations can’t be blamed for Ohio train wreck,” the headline on Monday’s piece read. (“So far.” Nice.)

“Trump’s comment during his tour of East Palestine was widely interpreted to mean that he had nothing to do with regulatory rollbacks during his presidency — an odd remark since he frequently celebrated how many regs he had eliminated. (He often exaggerated the impact of his record, but that’s another story),” Kessler wrote.

“Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, said Trump was speaking more generally about regulatory changes being falsely blamed for the derailment of 38 train cars, including 11 carrying hazardous materials, in East Palestine on Feb. 3. Biden administration officials have strongly suggested that the Trump administration buckled under pressure from rail industry lobbyists, laying the groundwork for an accident.”

First of all, I know of no one who thought Trump’s statement was “an odd remark” or who “interpreted [it] to mean that he had nothing to do with regulatory rollbacks during his presidency.” Then again, I don’t frequent Glenn Kessler’s group chats, nor he mine, so where this was “widely interpreted” as such is probably a matter of, well, interpretation.

That said, the WaPo’s analysis isn’t: “We decided to examine every possible regulatory change made under Trump that could be related to the accident and assess whether it could have made an impact,” Kessler wrote. “A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident, said the Norfolk Southern crew received an alert about an overheated wheel bearing and was trying to slow the train before it came off the tracks.

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“From our analysis, none of the regulatory changes made during the Trump administration at this point can be cited as contributing to the accident.”

The Post looked at six regulatory changes that Trump made and whether they had an effect on the accident. Five had “none” and one had “minimal” — and that “minimal” should have been a solid none.

First, the five that the WaPo said had no effect on the accident: longer intervals between brake safety inspections, a proposed two-person train crew requirement withdrawn by the Trump administration, revised minimum rail safety requirements, revised audits of railroads and the deregulation of ethylene oxide in chemical plant emissions.

Finally, we get to the “minimal” effect one and why even calling it “minimal” is disingenuous: the withdrawn 2015 requirement that trains carrying hazardous materials be equipped with electro-pneumatic braking systems, or ECPs.

“The train was not equipped with ECP brakes; instead its locomotive used dynamic braking — electric traction motors acting as generators, which slow the train and dissipate mechanical energy as heat,” the Post noted.

“When the crew received the alert about the overheated wheel bearing and engaged the dynamic brake, an automatic emergency brake application kicked in to stop the train, the NTSB said. That’s a full application of a train’s main air brakes that takes place when the train senses that air-brake hoses between rail cars have been disconnected — indicating the train had already derailed.”

Furthermore, as National Transportation Safety Board chair Jennifer Homendy noted on Twitter, the rule would have only applied to “high hazard flammable trains,” not trains with a “mixed freight” designation — which is what the train which derailed in East Palestine was designated as.

“This means even if the rule had gone into effect, this train wouldn’t have had ECP brakes,” Homendy tweeted.

So why “minimal,” then? Get a load of this Kessler logic: “But Cynthia Quarterman, who helped write the rule as administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration during the Obama administration, told The Fact Checker that if the rule had not been delayed and then shelved, she believes ECP brakes might have been widely adopted by industry and could have ended up on this train.”

Oh. So an Obama administration official “believes” ECPs would have been adopted, and therefore, Kessler thinks this might have had a “minimal” effect on the accident, despite having no proof ECPs would have prevented it and presenting no evidence to back up the assertion of Quarterman? That’s the basis for not entirely writing off claims that this was caused by Trump-era deregulation?

I subscribe to the Post because I have to for my job; why even the staunchest libs would subscribe to this rigged farce of a digital fishwrapper out of their own volition is beyond me.

Nevertheless, this is ostensibly as close to an admission you’ll get from the Beltway’s paper of record that, no, there’s no evidence that Trump-era deregulation had anything to do with this, despite baseless assertions from the administration and other Democrats. So, needless to say, they’ve all cut this out, and —

Insert your own Chinese spy joke here.

Rep. Swalwell is right on one thing, however: The case is closed. If the NTSB’s initial report is accurate, and we have no reason to think otherwise, the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, had nothing to do with Trump-era deregulation. Those who persist in lying about it to cover up their own poor response to the disaster need to be called out upon it. When even the Washington Post has to point out the obvious, so too do other members of the legacy media.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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