US freight company to pay $310 mn over East Palestine derailment

Russia says freight train derails due to sabotage
Source: Video Screenshot

The freight company responsible for a large toxical chemical spill in Ohio last year has reached a $310 million settlement with US authorities, officials said Thursday.

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, were forced to evacuate in February 2023, when a Norfolk Southern train carrying chemicals derailed, covering the area in thick black smoke.

While there were no fatalities, people were forced to temporarily evacuate, and many of them reported health problems and poor drinking water as a result of the incident.

The issue swiftly became political, with both President Joe Biden and his Republican rival Donald Trump making visits to the area.

In a joint statement Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) said the $310 million settlement would ensure that Norfolk Southern is held to account.

“My team has been laser focused on holding the guilty party accountable, directing and supervising the extensive cleanup activities since shortly after the derailment,” EPA administrator Michael Regan told reporters.

Norfolk Southern has agreed to spend around $235 million on cleanup costs, and to pay a $15 million civil penalty to “resolve the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act,” the DoJ and EPA said in a statement.

Other costs agreed to in the settlement include around $25 million for a 20-year health program to monitor affected individuals, and $30 million to measure water for the next decade.

Norfolk Southern will also put in place measures to improve the safety of transporting hazardous materials, including new monitoring devices and a more “rigorous” alarm protocol to detect overheated wheel bearings, Regan told reporters.

The cost of these changes is expected to cost Norfolk Southern approximately $200 million, and comes in addition to the $310 million agreed to in the settlement, he said.

“This company represents approximately 20 percent of the industry,” he continued.

“I think it’s safe to say that it is a game changer for the industry,” he added. “And we hope that other companies follow suit.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Norfolk Southern is not admitting liability for the accident, Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim told reporters.

The $310 million announced by the DoJ and the EPA on Thursday comes in addition to a separate $600 million class action settlement signed off by a judge earlier this week.


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