Settlement Reached in Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Case

Settlement Reached in Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Case

( – A Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023. To avoid a much larger explosion, officials ordered the “controlled venting” of several rail cars, which released plumes of smoke and chemicals into the air. The event impacted thousands of residents in the area, causing many to evacuate in the following days and weeks. More than a year later, the train company has finally reached a settlement.

Clean-Up and Safety Agreement

As part of the settlement between the Justice Department (DOJ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Norfolk Southern, the train company must shell out just over $500 million. The majority of that money, $310 million, will go towards environmental cleanup in the region. The agreement earmarked another $235 million to reimburse the federal government for its expenses surrounding setting up several disaster responses.

The company must allocate $25 million to establish a 20-year community health program and $30 million for monitoring surface, groundwater, and drinking water. Norfolk Southern has also committed $6 million to create a waterways remediation plan to help with pollution and water quality issues caused by the derailment and $175,000 to pay for damages to natural resources.

Additionally, the EPA assessed Norfolk Southern a $15 million penalty for violating the Clean Water Act. It’s the maximum allowable penalty, per EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

As part of the settlement, which the agreement labeled as “unprecedented,” the rail company didn’t admit to any fault or liability.

Class-Action Lawsuit Settlement

In addition to the more than $500 million settlement Norfolk Southern reached with the federal government, it settled a class-action lawsuit worth $600 million, bringing the total it will pay to more than $1 billion.

However, some plaintiffs worry that the $600 million settlement may not sustain them and their future health issues. Despite the passage of more than a year, some East Palestine residents are still experiencing some effects, including respiratory problems, nosebleeds, and rashes.

Moreover, those exposed to the chemicals during the controlled release and the continued exposure from the region’s contaminated natural resources worry they might develop cancer in the future. Some argue the payout is insignificant compared with the company’s earnings of $3 billion in just the first months of 2024.

If plaintiffs approve the settlement, it will apply to all claims within a 20-mile radius of where the train derailed for all personal injury claims of those who participate within a 10-mile radius.

Like the settlement with the federal government, this agreement wouldn’t require Norfolk Southern to admit any wrongdoing or liability.

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