Midweek Tabs

Trump had been in office for less than a year when he moved to kill the 2015 rule change initiated by the Obama administration that would have required freight trains to upgrade the current braking technology that was developed in the 19th century for state-of-the-art electronic systems. In killing the rule, Trump bought the argument from lobbyists for Norfolk Southern and the rail industry that the upgrade would have cost them $3 billion — six times what the Obama administration found it would cost.

With the investigation into the East Palestine wreck still in its early phases, it’s not clear if the modern brakes — originally required for installation by 2021 — could have prevented the toxic derailment or whether the specific Obama rule would have applied. But experts do believe the new brakes could have mitigated the wreckage — and thus the release of so many hazardous chemicals. And the rule reversal wasn’t the only time that Team Trump sided with Big Rail over the forgotten Americans who live on the wrong side of their tracks.

In 2019, for example, the Trump administration moved to not strengthen but relax regulations on shipping fracked natural gas through communities like East Palestine. The same year, Trump’s White House also killed an Obama-era proposal that would have required two crew members in freight-train locomotives. It probably won’t shock you to learn that the men Trump appointed to run the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had both been top executives in the lucrative freight industry.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    “Trump had been in office for less than a year when he moved to kill the 2015 rule change initiated by the Obama administration that would have required freight trains to upgrade the current braking technology…”

    Fake News.

  2. charon says:

    I can not read the piece in San Francisco Chronicle as it is paywalled.

    But – I doubt the NYT is any where close to being as obsessed with trans as Ron DeSantis and many other Republicans and Christians and Republican state legislatures..

  3. charon says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl:

    The GOP is putting a shit ton of effort into claiming the cleanup is deliberately inadequate because the local population is mostly white and Biden is a Democrat.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    If trump was human the cognitive dissonance would explode his head.

  5. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Yes – and Trump is going to the spill site today…which is odd given that he weakened the regulations. I hope one of this countries wonderful journalists questions him on this…but I doubt any have the balls.

  6. Stormy Dragon says:

    It’s just shocking that the states run by the “no regulations” party are suddenly having all of these industrial accidents

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: The regulation in question would have been in effect nationally. But yes, this is of a piece with Marked Man’s and my comments in today’s Forum on the literally toxic effect of living in Red states. An effect their residents will become aware of only if FOX covers it, which they won’t.

  8. wr says:

    @daryl and his brother darryl: “Trump is going to the spill site today…”

    A dumpster fire visits a toxic waste site.

  9. Stormy Dragon says:


    Yes, but absent national regulation, blue states tend to fill in with state level replacements while red states just let the corporations get away with whatever they like.