Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is piling onto the pressure for President Biden to travel to East Palestine in his state, where a train derailment last month has sparked an environmental and public health disaster.
“He should come, there’s no doubt about it,” DeWine said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday. “The president needs to come. The people want to see the president. He should be there.”
The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train that was carrying toxic chemicals has sparked a political hailstorm for the Biden administration, which has faced sharp criticism for its response to the disaster.
Scientists from Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon University this week said that the levels of nine chemicals are higher than they usually would be in the area. If the levels remain high, they could pose health risks, according to the researchers.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state officials have said that the air quality of the area is safe and that the chemicals should subside with time, residents have reported health reactions, including rashes and respiratory issues.
DeWine said he questioned the EPA about the findings from the universities, concluding the agency’s response “make[s] very good sense.”
“You’ve got an elevation of some of these, which they believe is clearly gonna be temporary,” he said. “What they tell us is that for the short term, this is no problem. … If that persists for year after year and people continue to breathe that, yes, it would in fact be a problem.”
Multiple Republicans have criticized Biden for not coming to East Palestine, particularly after his recent trip to Europe focused on the war in Ukraine.
The governor said he has spoken with Biden a number of times, and the last time they spoke the president was in Poland. But he said Biden has offered no explanation for why he has not yet visited the town.
“I just think now is the time, the president needs to come,” DeWine said. “It’s just important.”
The pressure for Biden to come to Ohio comes as former President Trump, who is seeking a return to the White House in 2024, visited the village last week, accusing the Biden administration of “indifference and betrayal” in its response to the derailment.