(VitalNews.org) – The tension between two branches of government is rising this week as the oft-spoken, yet seemingly seldom-realized, goal of checks and balances appears to be making progress.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is the latest to come under fire from Congressional Republicans as they accuse him of “apathy” in the face of the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Fifty cars derailed that day, some carrying corrosive and toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride. Cleanup efforts seem to have worsened the problem when crews performed a “controlled burn” that sent a plume of phosgene gas into the air. Phosgene gas was used as a weapon in WWI.
The House Oversight Committee launched an investigation into Buttigieg, who waited 20 days to visit the disaster site in Ohio. The Secretary was already unpopular with residents and national critics alike for waiting an entire week even to acknowledge the derailment.
The Committee’s letter to Buttigieg calls the derailment an “ongoing crisis” that forced local residents to flee but has also become an “environmental and public health emergency that now threatens Americans across state lines.” The letter continues, noting that despite the ongoing health emergency, Buttigieg waited a week to make a statement.
Responding to criticism, Buttigieg has admitted it was a mistake to wait a week to acknowledge the ongoing crisis. He defended his decision not to visit East Palestine immediately, saying it was established practice by the Transportation Department to allow experts on the ground to do their work unimpeded by administrative bosses.
However, Buttigieg wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing during the first week of the crisis. He made time to post on social media about how “diversity” was one of the most pressing problems facing America’s crumbling infrastructure. Not enough non-white people were working infrastructure jobs, the Secretary said.
It was unclear how or why the skin color of infrastructure workers could affect the rate at which bridges, roads, and other public works are maintained safely.
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