More than $310M settlement reached with Norfolk Southern after East Palestine train derailment

Photo of the East Palestine train derailment from the U.S. EPA.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice reached a more than $310 million with Norfolk Southern Railway Company for last year’s East Palestine, Ohio train derailment. 

If the settlement is approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Norfolk Southern would have to improve rail safety, pay for health monitoring and mental health services for the communities around East Palestine, fund long-term environmental monitoring and pay a $15 million civil penalty, among other actions to protect nearby waterways and drinking water resources. 

“No community should have to experience the trauma inflicted upon the residents of East Palestine,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a statement. “Today’s enforcement action … ensures the cleanup is paid for by the company, and helps prevent another disaster like this from happening again. Because of this settlement, residents and first responders will have greater access to health services, trains will be safer and waterways will be cleaner.”

A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, 2023 — spilling toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride into the air. Officials ordered a “controlled venting” to avoid an explosion of highly flammable chemicals which caused a massive black smoke plume. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined the controlled burn was not necessary

Thousands of fish died and residents reported rashes, nosebleeds and respiratory issues after the derailment. 

“From day one, it was important for Norfolk Southern to make things right for the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas,” Alan H. Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern said in a statement. “We are pleased we were able to reach a timely resolution of these investigations that recognizes our comprehensive response to the community’s needs. … We will continue keeping our promises and are invested in the community’s future for the long-haul.”

Norfolk Southern estimates it will pay more than $1 billion to address the contamination caused by the East Palestine train derailment and enhance rail safety and operations. 

Following the train derailment, a complaint was filed against Norfolk Southern in March 2023 “for unlawful discharges of pollutants and hazardous substances.” The EPA also issued an order to clean up the oil spilled into the surrounding waterways under the Clean Water Act. 

This is what Norfolk Southern has agreed to under the settlement: 

  • Spend an estimated $235 million for all past and future costs so cleanup efforts can continue on the company’s dime. 

  • Pay a $15 million civil penalty to resolve the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. 

  • Pay $25 million for a 20-year community health program for medical and mental health services for qualified individuals in affected counties and first responders who were onsite. 

  • Spend $15 million to execute long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface water for 10 years.

  • Pay $15 million for a private drinking water monitoring fund to continue the current private drinking water well monitoring program for 10 years. 

  • Pay $175,000 for national resource damages to restore, rehabilitate, replace or acquire the equivalent of the natural resources damaged because of the derailment. 

  • Administer a “waterways remediation plan” for Leslie Run and Sulphur Run projects with an estimated budget of $6 million that address historical pollution, reduce nonpoint source pollution through infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management projects. 

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.


The post More than $310M settlement reached with Norfolk Southern after East Palestine train derailment appeared first on Ohio Capital Journal.