Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost speaks in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 20, 2020.

Julie Carr Smyth | AP

Ohio sued rail company Norfolk Southern over the derailment of a train carrying toxic materials in East Palestine last month, the state’s attorney general announced Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges several violations of state and federal law pertaining to hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution and operational negligence, said Dave Yost, the state’s attorney general, during a press briefing. The state is seeking damages, civil penalties and a “declaratory judgement that Norfolk Southern is responsible,” he said.

“This derailment was entirely avoidable,” Yost said, adding that Norfolk Southern has seen an 80% increase in accidents over the last decade. “The fallout from this highly preventable accident is going to reverberate through Ohio and Ohioans for many years to come.”

Representatives for Norfolk Southern were not immediately available to comment.

On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train with 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials derailed near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania and subsequently ignited, spurring concerns of environmental and health impacts for the surrounding community.

This photo taken with a drone shows the continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

Gene J. Puskar | AP

Rail workers have reported feeling ill during clean up on the derailment site. Yost said Tuesday he heard from people who experienced sore throats and other irritations while visiting the site, and noted he had felt “discomfort” himself while on location.

Yost said “there’s lots of things that we don’t know yet” regarding whether the chemical spill will have long-term impacts for farmers and their livestock.

“A big point of this lawsuit is to make sure that those long-term effects are not only not forgotten but they are addressed,” Yost said.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw last week told a Senate panel the company plans to clean the site fully and offer financial assistance to affected residents.

“This was an epic disaster, and the cleanup is going to be expensive,” Yost said. “It’s going to take some significant dollars to put the people of East Palestine back as close as possible to the position they were before Feb. 3.”

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