Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday he has filed a federal lawsuit against rail owner Norfolk Southern over last month’s train derailment in East Palestine that sparked a fire and a miles-wide toxic chemical spill.
Yost outlined a 58-count complaint, asserting that Norfolk Southern had violated numerous state, federal and Ohio common laws, including violation of Ohio’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
“This derailment was entirely avoidable,” Yost said at a news conference Tuesday. “I’m concerned that Norfolk Southern may be putting profits for their own company above the health and safety of the cities and communities they operate in.”
Hundreds of East Palestine townspeople were forced out of their homes when the train derailed on February 3, and Norfolk Southern was forced to vent and burn carcinogenic chemicals from crashed rail cars to prevent an explosion.
The 38 cars that derailed were carrying substances that included vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene, all of which are toxic to humans and the environment.
According to Yost’s lawsuit, over one million gallons of hazardous chemicals were released that “adversely affected the health and wellbeing of Ohio residents and contaminated Ohio’s natural resources.”
The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary inspection in late February of the rail disaster concluded that there “appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment,” forcing the train to stop automatically.
During a Senate hearing last week Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said he was “deeply sorry” for the derailment’s impact upon the East Palestine community, adding that he was “determined to make it right.” However, he did not make specific commitments to pay for long-term health and economic harm.