Ohio Sues Norfolk Southern Over Train Derailment

Ohio has taken legal action against Norfolk Southern following the train derailment that led to an environmental disaster, displaced residents, and caused a national political uproar. The derailment occurred in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3 and involved a train carrying hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate. The cars caught fire, forcing surrounding residents to evacuate their homes. Authorities released a toxic plume of chemicals to avoid a potential explosion, with the cloud reaching neighboring Pennsylvania.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced the 58-count federal lawsuit on Tuesday, seeking at least $75,000 in damages. However, this amount is expected to increase as authorities continue to calculate the total cost of the disaster. Yost emphasized the long-term consequences of the incident, stating that there is still much to learn about the impact on the affected areas’ air, water and soil.

Norfolk Southern has responded to the lawsuit, pledging to clean up the town and provide financial assistance to those affected by the derailment. Spokesman Connor Spielmaker emphasized the company’s commitment to making things right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. Nevertheless, residents have voiced concerns about their long-term health, property values, and access to clean drinking water.

Despite assurances from officials that the water was safe to drink, residents were later urged to drink bottled water. Additionally, heavy chemical smells persisted long after authorities claimed the air was safe to breathe. Locals have attributed health problems, animal deaths, and potential property devaluation to the derailment and subsequent release of chemicals. Some have even filed civil lawsuits.

While environmental authorities have said there is little evidence that the derailment and contamination will pose long-term health risks, residents continue to call for more testing. In addition, the disaster response has become a political flashpoint, with Republicans pointing out the disinterested response from Joe Biden and his Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan H. Shaw apologized for the disaster during a congressional hearing, claiming that his company runs a “safe railroad.” In addition, Shaw informed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the company had spent $21 million to support communities in eastern Ohio and nearby western Pennsylvania. However, he did not elaborate on the specific cleanup and safety measures that Norfolk Southern would implement.

Yost stated that he has been discussing compensation with Norfolk Southern attorneys. The lawsuit serves as an additional means of holding the company accountable. He acknowledged the magnitude of the disaster, stressing the need for significant financial support to help the people of East Palestine return to their lives before the derailment.

The slow response of top Biden officials to the unfolding environmental crisis in Ohio is a glaring example of the administration’s ineptitude. Biden took two weeks to recognize the disaster warranting federal relief funds and blocked earlier attempts to secure FEMA resources. Meanwhile, Buttigieg’s delayed visit to East Palestine showcased a lack of urgency in addressing this urgent domestic crisis.

The lawsuit against Norfolk Southern represents a crucial step in seeking justice for the residents of East Palestine and holding the company responsible for the disastrous derailment.

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