(Daily Caller News Foundation) — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Thursday that he will not visit a small Minnesota town that was evacuated after a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train derailed and caught fire earlier that morning.
Raymond, Minn., residents who live within a half mile from the derailment site were evacuated after approximately 22 cars derailed and four caught on fire around 1:00 a.m. CST. The train was carrying mixed freight including ethanol and corn syrup.
Buttigieg tweeted on Thursday that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is at the derailment site and an investigation will be launched but told CNN host Don Lemon during CNN This Morning that he would not personally be visiting the scene.
“Right now I am not going to get in the way of investigators or local officials,” Buttigieg said.
Lemon referenced East Palestine, Ohio, which made headlines after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and a controlled burn cast a toxic plume over the town in February, during the interview. Buttigieg visited the town on Feb. 23 after being criticized for his allegedly slow response.
“I did visit Ohio. As far as we know, it’s the first time that a transportation secretary has visited a hazardous material derailment site because it was very important for the community to hear the message of support from this administration,” Buttigieg told Lemon. “But I went the day that the NTSB released its preliminary fact finding report. Right now what the community needs is support from first responders who we will help any way we can.”
Biden Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he's "not going to get in the way" by visiting the site of today's train derailment in Minnesota pic.twitter.com/XB1aH5iPRS
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Buttigieg said that he contacted Democratic Gov. Tim Walz Thursday morning and that “while our department doesn’t have a direct first responder role, we do have personnel on the ground, making sure that we can provide support.”
He also discussed the department’s effort to advocate for railroad safety reforms to “make sure there are fewer of these incidents.”
“This happens more often than I think most Americans realize,” Buttigieg said. “This is exactly why we have called on Congress to create tougher fines and penalties and more authorities. There’s bipartisan legislation that would do just that, and in the meantime without waiting for Congress, we as a department have stepped up safety audits, taking other steps so that we can hold railroad companies accountable.”
Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance and Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023 to increase safety regulations and financial penalties.