Stephen Colbert laid on the guilt pretty thick during Monday’s “The Late Show,” jabbing lobbyists for their part in causing the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month that prompted an environmental crisis and fears of chemical contamination for its residents.
“I’ll tell you who didn’t help — the administration of the former president,” Colbert began. “In 2018, they repealed a rule that would require some trains carrying hazardous substances to upgrade their braking systems, aguing that the cost of requiring these brakes was not economically justified. Now they found a cheaper alternative — replacing all the dirt in Ohio.”
On Feb. 23, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, causing a massive explosion and fire. The area was evacuated as “a controlled release of vinyl chloride” was released and burned in a nearby trench.
Colbert was sure to point out that the Obama-era rule that required the braking systems upgrade wouldn’t have prevented the derailment, but did place blame directly on the shoulders of lobbyists.
“Thanks to intense lobbying by Norfolk Southern and other railroads, a train is considered ‘high-hazard’ only if it’s going faster than 30 miles per hour with at least 70 loaded tank cars containing certain highly flammable liquids,” he said. “Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Tanker cars full of vinyl chloride is a clear hazard. Sixty-nine is totally fine. But I’m going to guess one tanker of vinyl chloride is dangerous.”
He went on. “You shouldn’t put any hazardous chemicals on a train unless the brakes are working. It’s a lesson we all learned in the children’s classic: The Little Engine That Could Turn Ohio Into a Vast Wasteland.”
More than two weeks after the toxic train wreck began to poison the soil with the toxic chemical, the approximately 5,000 residents of the community continue to feel the aftereffect, including rashes, nausea and trouble breathing.
Watch the full “Late Show” segment in the video above.