DOJ Sues Norfolk Southern Over Toxic Derailment

March 31, 2023

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Thursday against rail owner Norfolk Southern over the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that sparked a fire and a miles-wide toxic chemical spill. 

The DOJ said in its filing that it’s seeking to hold the company accountable for “unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways and to ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup.”

The feds are asking for fines under the Clean Water Act, as well as for a judgment to hold the rail owner accountable for past and future costs. 

Thousands of people evacuated when the train derailed and Norfolk Southern was forced to vent and burn carcinogenic chemicals from crashed rail cars to prevent an explosion.

According to Ohio Attorney General  Dave Yost—who is also suing Norfolk Southern—more than one million gallons of hazardous chemicals were released and “adversely affected the health and wellbeing of Ohio residents and contaminated Ohio’s natural resources.”

Government officials say tests have not found dangerous levels of chemicals in the air or water, but many residents remain concerned about their long-term health. 

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has repeatedly apologized for the derailment and its impact on the people of East Palestine, including during testimony before the  Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

“I am going to see this through. There are no strings attached to our assistance,” Shaw said during that March 9 hearing, adding, “I pledge that we won’t be finished until we make it right.”

In a recent statement, Norfolk Southern spokesperson Connor Spielmaker said the company is focusing on cleanup under the direction of the EPA.

“Our job right now is to make progress every day cleaning up the site, assisting residents whose lives were impacted by the derailment, and investing in the future of East Palestine and the surrounding areas,” said Spielmaker.

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