Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over February train derailment

Add the state of Ohio to the growing list of those suing Norfolk Southern over the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said the state is filing a lawsuit in the U.S. district court in Columbus in order “to hold Norfolk Southern financially responsible” for the train derailment, which Yost described as releasing over 1 million gallons of hazardous chemicals and “recklessly endangering” the region’s inhabitants and natural resources. 

The state is seeking to recoup not only costs and damages related to the derailment, emergency response and cleanup but also court fees, lost taxes and other sustained economic losses, according to Tuesday’s news release.

“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence,” Yost said. “The fallout from this highly preventable incident may continue for years to come, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects on our air, water and soil.”

Ohio has cited NS with 58 counts of violating the state’s common laws as well as federal and state environmental laws, including provisions related to hazardous waste and water and air pollution. 

The complaint also alleges that toxic chemical releases from at least 39 rail cars made their way into local streams and tributaries, as well as the Ohio River. 

“[The derailment] has caused substantial damage to the regional economy of the state of Ohio, its citizens and its businesses,” Yost said. “The citizens of the region have been displaced, their lives interrupted and their businesses shuttered.”

In addition to financial penalties, Ohio asked the court to require NS to conduct future monitoring of soil and groundwater at the derailment location and submit a closure plan to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

NS in talks to develop programs addressing potential long-term issues

In response to the lawsuit filing, NS said in a statement it has met with Yost and others to develop three additional programs that would address long-term concerns. 

The ideas include a long-term medical compensation fund that would address potential health risks, a program for local home sellers should property values fall and a program ensuring safe drinking water. 

“Every day since the derailment, our goal has been to make it right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities,” NS said in a statement Tuesday. “We are making progress every day cleaning the site safely and thoroughly, providing financial assistance to residents and businesses that have been affected and investing to help East Palestine and the communities around it thrive.”

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Editor: Joanna Marsh