Idris Elba and Electric Buses: EPA Chief Lived Large While East Palestine Burned

Michael Regan promoted electric school buses before visiting East Palestine (Michael Regan/Twitter).
January 30, 2024

East Palestine was the last thing on Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan’s mind in the weeks following the Feb. 3, 2023, train derailment that flooded the Ohio town with toxic chemicals.

Ten days after the spill, as residents questioned whether it was safe to even touch their water, Regan finalized plans for an African climate change summit on a video call with British actor Idris Elba, according to calendar records obtained by the Functional Government Initiative and shared with the Washington Free Beacon. Just over an hour later, Regan hopped on the phone with MSNBC contributor April Ryan to discuss the upcoming trip and pat himself on the back for accepting Elba’s "challenge" to be more inclusive of African nations. Ryan discussed the call in an exclusive story for The Grio shortly afterward.

As East Palestine grappled with the chemical fallout, Regan was jet-setting across the country advertising electric school buses and touring water treatment plants, his calendar records show. Regan finally visited the devastated Ohio town 13 days after the derailment, amid public outrage at the Biden administration’s perceived disinterest in the unfolding disaster.

But the trip came at a severe personal cost for Regan—he had to cancel his plans with Elba.

"Why did it appear to take so long for Administrator Regan to prioritize the disaster in East Palestine?" Functional Government Initiative spokesman Peter McGinnis said in a statement. "This sort of irresponsibility seems to be a congenital problem in the Biden administration."

McGinnis noted that Regan’s delinquency during the immediate aftermath of the East Palestine disaster mirrored Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s disappearance during the 2021 supply chain crisis. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went a step further this year, choosing not to inform President Joe Biden or his second-in-command that he was hospitalized earlier in January.

Regan appears to have done nothing during the first two days following the derailment. His calendar records show he took that entire weekend off.

On Feb. 8, while an evacuation order was still active in East Palestine due to air quality concerns, the EPA administrator visited a local high school in Alma, Kansas, to promote electric buses.

"With @POTUS’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are delivering cleaner air for our kids," Regan wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that afternoon. "Let’s finish the job."

Later that evening, East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick announced the air in the Ohio town was finally safe enough for residents to return home.

Regan then made his way to North Carolina on Feb. 13, where he toured a water treatment plant.

"I’m proud @EPA is investing $2 billion for communities like Maysville to tackle water contamination," he posted from North Carolina that day. "This is what investing in America looks like."

Regan finally broke his silence on the East Palestine train derailment during a Feb. 15 Fox News interview, during which he announced he would visit the town the next day.

EPA spokesman Timothy Carroll said Regan was "kept apprised of EPA's actions on the ground" in the immediate aftermath of the derailment in East Palestine, and has since travelled to the town four times.

Update Jan. 30, 10:25 a.m.: This piece has been updated to include comment from the EPA.