ICYMI: Trump Slashed Transportation Safety, Environmental Rules
February 22, 2023
New reports out this morning from Yahoo and Politico detail how Donald Trump and his MAGA administration gutted critical transportation and environmental safety regulations.
Yahoo News: Trump set to visit East Palestine after cutting rail regulations as president
By Christopher Wilson
- Former President Donald Trump is set to visit East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, after criticizing the federal response to the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals. But while Trump’s visit is drawing more attention to the cleanup, it also highlights the disconnect between his promises to Rust Belt towns like East Palestine and his actual record in office.
- Trump visits as a leading Republican contender to challenge President Biden in next year’s election, echoing his 2016 promises to restore white rural communities and postindustrial cities. While those areas are most likely to suffer from dangerous train derailments, his administration reduced rail safety protections.
- Despite calls for a wider range of cargo to fall under new regulation, Trump went the other way after taking office. His administration rolled back the rule on trains carrying flammable liquids, stating that the cost of the new braking systems outweighed the benefits of accident prevention. The Associated Press found that the Department of Transportation during the Trump administration underestimated the future damages of derailments during its analysis by more than $100 million.
- Trump’s rollback came after extensive lobbying from the rail industry during and prior to his tenure, with Norfolk Southern saying it had “opposed additional speed limitations and requiring ECP brakes” in a 2015 lobbying disclosure. The rail industry spent more than $6 million on Republican campaigns in 2016, its biggest expenditure to any party in any cycle since at least 1990, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks the flow of money in U.S. politics. In 2019, Trump’s DOT moved to loosen restrictions on the transportation of natural gas by rail.
Politico: ‘A political stunt’: Trump’s Ohio visit revives questions about his own safety legacy
By Tanya Snyer, Alex Guillen, Adam Wren
- Trump’s administration withdrew an Obama-era proposal to require faster brakes on trains carrying highly flammable materials, ended regular rail safety audits of railroads, and mothballed a pending rule requiring freight trains to have at least two crew members. He also placed a veteran of the chemical industry in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety office, where she made industry-friendly changes to how the agency studied health risks.
- As president, Trump made rescinding regulations a major priority for his agencies, even signing an order requiring them to revoke two rules for every one they enact. At the same time, he said he wanted to “ensure that America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet.”
- His administration’s most high-profile action on rail safety was its withdrawal of a 2015 rule mandating more advanced brakes on some trains carrying especially hazardous materials.
- Advocates of tougher regulations on toxic chemicals expressed just as much frustration. Under Trump, “there was a rollback of, you know, almost everything,” said Sonya Lunder, the Sierra Club’s senior toxics adviser.
- Trump’s EPA repealed regulations intended to prevent chemical accidents at industrial facilities and rolled back requirements for companies to regularly assess whether safer technologies or practices have become available. It also withdrew requirements that companies have third-party audits to determine the root causes of accidents. The Biden administration last year proposed reinstating all those requirements.