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Norfolk Southern to Pay $310M Settlement Following East Palestine Derailment

Norfolk Southern to Pay $310M Settlement Following East Palestine Derailment

East Palestine Derailment

Norfolk Southern Railway Company is set to pay a $310 million settlement following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023. This agreement, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice, mandates the company to address the extensive damage caused by the incident and implement measures to enhance rail safety.

Comprehensive Settlement to Address Contamination and Health Impacts

The settlement, which still requires approval from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, outlines several key actions for Norfolk Southern. If approved, the company will be obligated to:

  1. Enhance Rail Safety: Implement measures to improve rail safety to prevent future accidents.

  2. Health and Mental Health Services: Fund health monitoring and mental health services for affected communities.

  3. Environmental Monitoring: Support long-term environmental monitoring to ensure the safety of waterways and drinking water.

  4. Civil Penalty: Pay a $15 million civil penalty.

  5. Waterway Protection: Undertake actions to protect nearby waterways and drinking water resources.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan emphasized the significance of the settlement, stating, "No community should have to experience the trauma inflicted upon the residents of East Palestine. This enforcement action ensures the cleanup is paid for by the company and helps prevent another disaster like this from happening again."

A Significant Financial Commitment from Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern estimates that, combined with other response costs and safety enhancements, it will spend over $1 billion addressing the contamination and improving rail operations. This settlement comes on the heels of another $600 million settlement announced in April 2024 to resolve class-action claims related to the derailment.

Extensive Cleanup Efforts Underway

The settlement follows a complaint filed by the United States in March 2023, charging Norfolk Southern with unlawful discharges of pollutants and hazardous substances. As of the announcement, more than 177,000 tons of contaminated soil and over 69 million gallons of wastewater have been removed from the community. Efforts are ongoing to remove contamination from local creeks and to conduct soil sampling at the derailment site.

Key Provisions of the Settlement

Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern has committed to several significant actions:

  • Spending $235 million for all past and future costs.

  • Paying a $15 million civil penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act.

  • Allocating $25 million for a 20-year community health program, including medical monitoring and mental health services for affected residents and first responders.

  • Spending $15 million on long-term groundwater and surface water monitoring for 10 years.

  • Establishing a $15 million fund for private drinking water well monitoring over 10 years.

  • Implementing a $6 million waterways remediation plan to address historical pollution and restore aquatic habitats.

  • Paying $175,000 for natural resource damages to restore or replace injured natural resources.

Enhancements to Rail Safety

In addition to these measures, the settlement requires Norfolk Southern to enhance the safety of transporting hazardous materials by rail. This includes installing devices to detect overheated wheel bearings early enough to prevent derailments similar to the East Palestine incident. The company estimates that these safety enhancements will cost over $200 million.

This settlement marks a significant step in holding Norfolk Southern accountable for the February 2023 derailment and ensuring the safety and well-being of the East Palestine community. The comprehensive measures outlined in the agreement aim to address the immediate impacts of the disaster while preventing similar incidents in the future. As the settlement awaits final approval, the residents of East Palestine can look forward to long-term support and safety improvements.

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