News & Reviews News Wire Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

By David Lassen | March 14, 2023

Attorney general says suit is to ensure railroad takes responsibility; NS plans programs for long-term medical compensation, protection of drinking water, and property values

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Workers and equipment around burned out tank cars
Cleanup work at the site of the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 8, 2023. The state of Ohio is suing NS over the derailment. Sol Tucker

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state of Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern over the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, claiming the incident was “entirely avoidable and the direct result of Norfolk Southern’s practice of putting its own profits above the health, safety, and welfare of the communities in which Norfolk Southern operates.”

The 58-count, 106-page lawsuit, filed today (March 14) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, seeks civil penalties “including compensatory and punitive damages.” It argues that the railroad violated state and federal laws, including those regarding air and water pollution and hazardous wastes, and wants NS held responsible for all costs from the derailment. That includes reimbursing the state for its costs to respond to the derailment, damages suffered by local residents, and restoring “public natural resources to their pre-derailment condition or to replace those resources that are gone forever.”

It also would require NS to provide future monitoring of soil and groundwater in the area near the derailment. reports that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who filed the suit, when asked what dollar figure he was seeking, said, “lots — maybe lots and lots.” He was unwilling to provide a specific figure but said cleanup will require “significant dollars to put the people of East Palestine back as close as possible to the position they were before February.

Yost also said that while NS has promised to take responsibility for the damages caused by the derailment, the lawsuit is meant to ensure the railroad delivers on those promises.

Norfolk Southern, in a statement issued Monday after the suit was filed, said it had met earlier this week with Yost to discuss three additional programs for residents — a long-term medical compensation fund, “tailored protection” for home sellers if their property loses value, and long-term protection of local drinking water.

“We look forward to working toward a final resolution with Attorney General Yost and others as we coordinate with his office, community leaders, and other stakeholders to finalize the details of these programs,” the statement concludes.

8 thoughts on “Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

  1. Going forward, it would be very understandable if NS chooses to take certain prudent business decisions to reduce its exposure to future litigation risks associated with doing business within the State of Ohio.

  2. NS should pull up its entire plant in Ohio and leave the state to do without. It’s obviously unwanted there. The other Class I’s shoulalso take note of this government that is unfrendly to both transportation and commerce.

  3. Just wondering, do the builders of the tank cars share any responsibility in this case. I don’t know the answer to this.

  4. NS Stock has already tumbled more than 18% since the accident. Closed at $254.84 on February 2, Closed yesterday at $208.08. If it falls much more I believe another Hedge Fund will get into the game. If this happens more cost cutting to bring up price of stock before bailing out with the profits.

  5. Now that there is a major suit filed, maybe Norfolk Southern should halt all remaining cleanup while gathering more information as to defend itself in court. If this stuff were to remain at the site for say, another 6-12 months while waiting for an initial court date, well, who knows what will happen then…just sayin’

  6. 2. On the one hand, if Ohio only took other fpolluters to task as well, Lake Erie and the people who depend on it my have a fighting chance. . . . On the other, so much for Ohio’s business friendly climate.. or is this an easy bait and switch, because a railroad derailment and chemical explosion is so dramatic– but heaven forbid we go after the industries which poison the environment everyday in areas that dont vote for us.

    1. I’m guessing hundreds of millions. This is the inevitable result of cutting maintenance and shop crews to the point where best practices can no longer be achieved, and relying on technology to keep things moving. Did railroad managers forget the lessons of Penn Central and the other northeast railroads in the 1960s about deferred maintenance? Hunter Harrison is in Hell laughing himself silly that he was able to scam so many good companies with PSR and turn a once-dependable industry into the mess we have today. I hope NS survives and that the other Class 1s will take heed and get back to doing things the right way to insure long-term growth and profitability. And I pray for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding area that they will be made whole to the maximum extent possible, and that the damage to their health will prove to be minimal.

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