DOJ Files Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern Over Train Derailment
Should Ohio hold Norfolk Southern responsible? Let Gov. DeWine know what you think.
Updated March 31, 2023
- The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern to ensure the company pays for the total cost of clean-up and any long-term impacts felt by the communities affected in Ohio and Pennsylvania. EPA administrator Michael Regan said:
"[The suit will] ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again."
- The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. district court of Ohio on behalf of the EPA, is in pursuit of penalties and injunctive relief for the unlawful spill of chemicals under the Clean Water Act. U.S. attorney general Merrick Garland said:
"With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to pursue justice for the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the community."
- The CDC reported earlier this month that government officials fell ill while investigating the train derailment site. The team was looking into the lingering health effects of Norfolk Southern's toxic spill. The investigators and East Palestine residents noted experiencing sore throats, headaches, coughing, and nausea.
- Norfolk Southern's CEO, Alan Shaw, said the company is committed to paying for clean-up costs and addressing long-term health issues.
Updated March 9, 2023
- Senators on the Environmental and Public Works Committee held a hearing today of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The hearing examined the environmental and public health threats caused by the spill of hazardous materials in the town.
- Lawmakers asked about what the company is doing to help workers, including paid leave and healthcare needs.
- EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore testified that the agency put out an administrative order holding Norfolk Southern accountable for all costs related to clean-up and restoration.
- In a bipartisan effort, Senators called for more regulation, increased safety requirements, and higher penalties for railroad companies.
- The CEO of Norfolk Southern, Alan Shaw, said during the company's testimony:
"I am terribly sorry for the impact this derailment has had on the folks of the community. Yes, it is my commitment and Norfolk Southern's commitment that we are going to be there for as long as it takes to help East Palestine thrive and recover."
- Shaw continued by saying he believes the air and water are so safe in East Palestine that he would live there, given what he's seen of the clean-up. Despite nearly 5,000 people being affected by the chemical leaks, no local residents were invited to testify.
Updated March 6, 2023
- Another one of Norfolk Southern's trains derailed in Springfield, Ohio, according to several state and local agencies. 28 train cars slid diagonally across the tracks, which officials say were not carrying any toxic chemicals.
- This marks the company's second major derailment in just over a month. While spokespeople say this derailment does not threaten the community, questions and concerns about the environmental and public health of East Palestine are still lingering.
- Springfield hazmat coordinator Matt Smith said the derailed cars carried residual diesel exhaust fluid levels and a polyacrylamide water solution. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency said the materials were "common industrial products shipped via roadrail."
- When comparing the two events, Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel said:
"If there's anything we've learned so far, it's that transparency matters, encouraging facts, not misinformation. We will continue to be good partners in getting the facts out."
- As cleanup in East Palenstine continues, Norfolk Southern has received mass scrutiny. The company pledged several million dollars to cover the cost of response and recovery, on top of any legal obligations that might be imposed.
Updated February 16, 2023
- Since the residents of East Palestine returned home, reports of medical ailments and discomforts — like headaches and rashes — have been popping up, leading to outrage from the community over a lack of answers.
- The community members held a town hall meeting Wednesday night, sharing their frustration with the public officials. Norfolk Southern spokespeople didn’t show up, pulling out just hours before what was supposed to be an information session.
- Earlier this week, the EPA released details of the various hazardous chemicals on the trains, all of which cause irritation and neurological symptoms like dizziness and headaches when inhaled or ingested.
- The release of chemicals in the surrounding area’s waterways has led to the death of around 3,500 fish. Despite this estimate by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, officials say the water in the Ohio River is safe to drink. The state’s EPA director, Anne Vogel, said:
“The Ohio River is very large, and it’s a water body able to dilute the pollutants very quickly. We’re pretty confident that these low levels are not getting passed onto the customers.”
- Residents are still encouraged to use bottled water until tests on municipal water sources are complete.
- Nevertheless, many in the town are doubting their safety. People want to know why they are feeling sick if the air and water quality is supposedly safe. Dianna Elzer, whose home is 600 yards away from the crash site, said:
“That’s not real reassuring that they’re just going to say, ‘Oh, everything’s good,’ because we aren’t going to know the true ramifications of what the impact on the environment is for a while.”
- Maggie Guglielmo, a small business owner, is having the air quality inside her building tested privately. Even though the EPA said her building’s air quality is fine, she feels uncertain. She said:
“I wear an N95 mask when I go in, but I can still smell the stuff. I also wear goggles, but it’s still irritating my eyes.”
- Many are pointing to Trump-era rollbacks on key safety rules as a possible cause of the derailment. Learn more here.
What’s the story?
- Earlier this month, a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in Ohio, causing a major fire and billowing smoke throughout the town of East Palestine.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said around 50 Norfolk Southern train cars went off the track — about 20 of which were carrying hazardous materials that were released into the environment.
- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine raised concerns about the train exploding and ordered town residents to evacuate. Authorities released the toxic fumes in what they called a “controlled” manner in order to neutralize some burning cargo.
- The train contained chemicals and combustible materials, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, hydrogen chloride, phosgene, and more. Of most concern is vinyl chloride, which breaks down into other chemicals, such as formaldehyde, when exposed to sunlight.
Environmental and public health concerns
- The incident has caused much concern about the residents' health and the air, soil, and water in the surrounding area.
- On Feb. 12, the EPA said it had not detected concerning levels of pollution in the air but that residents might smell an odor. However, experts are voicing doubt that the pollution levels are safe for humans, animals, and natural environments in the area.
- The inhalation of these fumes could cause dizziness, nausea, headache, visual disturbances, respiratory problems, and other health issues, according to professor Ashok Kumar of the University of Toledo. Kumar added that exposure to the hydrogen chloride fumes could irritate the throat and skin, while phosgene fumes could lead to chest constriction and even choking. Long-term exposure to vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, can lead to cancer, said professor Kevin Crist from Ohio University’s Air Quality Center. Crist went on to compare the inhalation of the carcinogen to “acid mist.”
- Cleanup of the spill is expected to take years to complete. The EPA will remain involved to oversee the cleanup and continue to take water and air samples to ensure the pollution levels are safe for the residents. Local officials maintain that the air and water are safe in East Palestine.
Reports from residents
- Since the evacuation order was lifted last week, there have been growing reports of people experiencing burning sensations, headaches, and more.
- There are reports of animals around the crash site exhibiting strange behavior, with some even dying. One farmer and fox keeper, Taylor Holzer, reported sudden injuries and deaths of his foxes, even though he resides outside the evacuation zone. When telling WKBN 27 News about one of his foxes, he said:
“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down. This is not how a fox should act. He is very weak…Smoke and chemicals from the train, that’s the only thing that can cause it, because it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals…or people.”
- Some business owners and residents of East Palestine have filed lawsuits against Norfolk Southern for negligence, demanding the company funds medical screenings for those exposed to the chemicals.
Should Ohio hold Norfolk Southern responsible? Let Gov. DeWine know what you think.
(Photo credit: Environmental Protection Agency)
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Its a sad state of affairs when government has to regulate the behavior of companies to do the right things. The lust for money and power destroys all the good a company can do. Besides employees, there is the matter of maintenence and upkeep of machinery, transportation, and other factors to take into consideration. Neglect of responsibilities regarding the business is a red flag to failure. In the long run, spending a little cash before hand to prevent accidents such as this, should be a priority no matter who sits on the board, who the company's "president" or CEO is. Providing a stable work environment should always be a top priority to ensure the community standing which in turn will improve the end product or service. They should, on all counts, be held liable for the damage.
So quit complaining about "big government" having too much power over businesses of any type. These regulations are needed to offset the greed and lust for power.
One word "HELL YEAH".
Hold NS accountiable.
"Newly released data shows soil in the Ohio town of East Palestine – scene of a recent catastrophic train crash and chemical spill – contains dioxin levels hundreds of times greater than the exposure threshold above which Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists in 2010 found poses cancer risks."
"The data probably confirms fears that the controlled burn of vinyl chloride in the days after the train wreck in the town created dioxin and dispersed it throughout the area, experts say, though they stressed the new data is of limited value because only two soil samples were checked."
"Dioxins are a class of chemicals that are a byproduct produced when chlorine is burned, which is a common industrial process in making products like PVC."
"The chemicals are highly persistent and can accumulate and stay for years in the environment or human bodies. Among other health issues, the compounds are linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, nervous system disorders and other serious health problems. Soil and food contamination are considered to be among the most common exposure routes."
"After resisting calls for weeks to test for dioxins, the EPA on 3 March announced it would order Norfolk Southern to do so. Separately, Indiana last week commissioned testing of East Palestine soil because one of the state’s landfills is storing it. The testing was conducted by what Birnbaum characterized as a reputable laboratory."
"Regulators establish the toxicity of dioxins in a soil sample by calculating the “toxicity equivalence” of all dioxins in the soil compared with the most toxic dioxin compound, called 2,3,7,8 TCDD. East Palestine soil showed levels of “2,3,7,8 TCDD toxicity equivalence” of 700 parts per trillion (ppt). The level at which the EPA will initiate cleanup action in residential areas is 1,000 ppt."
"However, the cleanup triggers are much lower in many states – 90 ppt in Michigan, and 50 ppt in California."
"It is also unclear where and at what depth the samples were collected, Prasse noted, all of which has implications for potential health risks in East Palestine. The chemicals would especially present a risk in dust and gardens, or for children playing outside, he added. Many homes are a matter of feet from the wreck site."
Ohio is suing NS to recoup state costs associated with the derailment, require future soil & water testing, and preventing NS of disposing evidence like contaminated soil. Hopefully this changes NS cost/benefit on upgrading braking systems, spending more time in station for ball bearing inspections, consider shortening trains and making them less heavy so they remain upright in derailments like European trains.
"Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern Railway after one of its trains derailed in East Palestine with toxic chemicals on board, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday."
"The 58-count lawsuit filed in federal court is the strongest rebuke of Norfolk Southern since a train spilled hazardous materials into the air, water and soil on Feb. 3, rattling the small village of 4,700 along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Five of the derailed cars contained vinyl chloride, which the railroad later vented and burned to prevent an explosion."
"The lawsuit seeks to force Norfolk Southern to pay for costs incurred by the state, including the emergency response, economic damage and harm to natural resources. It also asks the court to order the company to conduct future soil and groundwater monitoring and prevent them from disposing contaminated soil at the derailment site."
"Yost said it's impossible to know at this point how expensive the recovery will be."
""This was an epic disaster," he said. "The cleanup is going to be expensive, and it’s going to take some significant dollars to put the people of East Palestine back as close as possible to the position they were before Feb. 3."
"Yost previously warned Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw that his office was considering legal action, according to a letter obtained by the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. Yost instructed the company to preserve all information relevant to the lawsuit, including employee and contractor records."
"The state's action follows roughly two dozen lawsuitsfiled on behalf of residents and businesses who say they've been affected by the derailment."
For NS to shirk their responsibilities - accountability - drag their feet is obscene and likewise with politicians, shareholders
they all should be penalized heavily
all of these derailments are avoidale. we have the tech & means
bring the hammer down NOW!
I just learned this morning from Michigan Rep. Deb Dingle that it is common practice to make the toxic waste chemical spills disappear into the Great Lakes for free dumping! I would like to mention to you that the largest fresh water source in the World is the Great Lakes of Michigan. The second largest is Lake Bailkal in Russia, yes Russia. I have known for a long time that if we, at some point, hit a fresh water problem, one in which oh, say.......the 70 year old Canadian Enbridge oil pipeline that lies beneath the Mackinaw Bridge should spring a leak, as it has done many, many, times in recent years who would fix it, who would clean it up? At the hearings in D.C.in the late 70's the Coast Guard said that there would be no way to clean it up and no one to pay for it? So just accept this right now. If there ever is an oil spill in the Straits of Mackinaw there will be no clean up. The currents where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan collide are the same beneth that Bridge as those measured of the currents at Niagra Falls! So I predict that we are going to need to nogotiate the end of the war in Keiv with some sort of a fresh water because we are to dumb to take care of what we have right now! I know, I know.
The only way to dissuade large corporations actions that value their profitability more than their obligation to serve the public (customers and those they interact with) is to make damaging the people more expensive and less profitable.
Regulations, class-action suits, personal injury suits, defamation suits and meaningful fines are the only ways available to take the incentives away to write-off damages done to people as being less damaging to their profits than addressing safety issues that knowingly can damage people needlessly.
March 9, 2023
There are at least two goals to accomplish with today's hearings 1. To Hold Norfolk Southern accountable for all its derailments and loss of life and property, and 2. To Establish Strict Regulations for the Railroads, especially for All Norfolk Southern lines.
It is time for corporate boards that allow such negligence to be held accountable for such injustices. Everything is about money and who has it and who towers over who...what have we become in society? Going back to Reagan's time when he lessened the abilities of the EPA, people have been subjected to health issues from corporate greed. And, Trump and his merry gage of profit mongers have allowed yet more corporate dereliction to society. Have they no morals?!
Yes, the railroad must be held accountable!
Of course there are side effects to chemical spills. Just like water finding it's own path with a roof leak which can show up at an odd place, the same with other liquids. And these things never seem to happen in wealthy neighborhoods...
Yes, the railroad is accountable! Congress let's some a spine and regulate better!
More proof that negligence is a way of maintaining the profit margin and making insurance companies responsible for the cost of loss and/or damages. This in turn, causes an increase in the cost of any insurance. Gotta maintain that damn profit margin. God forbid any investor loses a penny of their invested money.
Springfield is across the state from East Palestine, but I'm sure Ohio residents, and all homeowners near a railroad, are livid. It seems Norfolk Southern really needs to work on their safety systems and improve their tracks (most tracks are owned by the companies).
I expect that the state and federal authorities, as well as Congress, will start doing a better job of investigating and regulating the railroads. We cannot have derailments start happening on the regular, especially since many of these trains carry toxic and flammable substances.
We don't need to keep blaming either "side" or administration at this point; we just need to find ways to fix it and stop it from happening.
Risk Management is not taking risks, but managing risks through regulation and laws. Deregulation and weakening laws does just the opposite, whether federal or state! Not all train accidents are frontline news.
I am amazed the town, county and state safety folks are not supporting the folks affected by this accident. It appears the state, county and town are gutless to stand up for their people. I do not blame the train engineer, or the rail maintenance crew or the car and truck maintenance crews. Appears this Rail company is very similar to PGE in California. More worried about profit over safety. Same goes for the Safety poeople of the state of Ohio.
Rail workers warned us they are overworked and understaffed. the company made record profits by cutting corners, willfully endangering people, and the environment. they must be held accountable.
there are now reports of the rail company offering the towns people $500 each to promise not to sue in the future....I urge the people to reject this sad attempt to buy your silence.
Norfolk Southern (NS) is responsible for this accident and should be held liable for all damages. If I lived in East Palestine [OH] and saw EPA show up in hazmat suits to do air, soil & water testing I'd certainly move out and expect NS to pick up the tab, as well as any medical expenses from exposure to the 4 chemicals released into the environment where I live. They created the problem with their 30% longer trains (2 miles long), lack of adequate breaking systems by lobbying the Trump administration to overturn an Obama administration DOT regulation & stop an SEC shareholder initiative to improve safety when transporting hazardous chemicals & oil, layoffs of 3,500 employees to buy back $2.8M in stock using debt financing to increase executive compensation. East Palestine is road kill on the path to increased executive compensation. Had this accident occurred 52 miles further east it would have affected 300K residents of Pittsburg. There have been 54K rail derailments between 1990-2021(1704/year) and12 so far this year. Eventually it will happen in a high population area like Pittsburgh.
5,000 people evacuated from East Palestine (OH) after a train derailment because, “the controlled burn would create a phosgene and hydrogen chloride plume across the region. Phosgene is a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble, and was used as a weapon in the first world war…. 25 million Americans live in an oil train blast zone, and had the derailment occurred just a few miles east [25 miles] it would be burning in downtown Pittsburgh with tens of thousands [300K] of residents in immediate danger.”
“The [EPA to Norfolk Southern] letter notes that water sampling shows these chemicals in the Ohio River, which provides drinking water for more than five million people. It also states that the chemicals have been observed running into storm drains, and cites potential for soil contamination.”
“This is the eighth major train derailment to occur in the greater Pittsburgh region in the last five years. Environmental health advocates have warned that Shell’s massive new petrochemical complex in western Pennsylvania means that volatile chemicals are increasingly being transported via train, and that a derailment in a more urban area, such as Pittsburgh, could be catastrophically deadly.”
(1) 3rd largest US railroad, economic pressure from stock sell offs due to lack of dividend growth, labor union dispute over paid time off & layoffs, and 2020 slow down from COVID
(2) railroad operators face competition from truckers, decrease costs by layoffs
(3) train length and weight have increased in the last 10 years to be more efficient but stopping for emergencies are more difficult.
(4) fought against a 2013 US Department of Transportation safety rule that would have limited the impact of the derailment so that the 2015 issue of the rule was downscoped to cover only electronic brakes instead of breaking car-by-car to be installed by 2023 to only high-hazard flammable trains” carrying at least 20 consecutive loaded cars filled with liquids like crude oil. The Trump Administration repealed the law claiming cost exceeded benefit due to lobbyists from the petroleum & railroad industries.
(5) while lobbying against stronger transportation safety regulations, Norfolk Southern paid executives millions and spent $2.3 billions on stock buybacks in 2018 but used debt to do this— all while the company laid off 3-4 thousands employees due to decreased demand from Trumps trade wars that hit agriculture & manufacturing despite warnings that understaffing is intensifying safety risks. Due to trains 30% longer (now 2 miles long).Norfolk Southern officials also fought off a shareholder initiative that could have required company executives to “assess, review, and mitigate risks of hazardous material transportation.” by having the DOT removed by the Trump Administration.
(6) The Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that 54,539 train derailments occurred in the U.S. from 1990 to 2021, an average of 1,704 per year., and 12 derailments in 2023 as of 2-13-23
With profit comes responsibility. Hold them accountable!
Just another example of biden admin. A complete train wreck
Norfolk Southern is the 3rd largest US railroad, economic pressure from stock sell offs due to lack of dividend growth, labor union dispute over paid time off & layoffs, and 2020 slow down from COVID
Because of their policies, railroad operators face competition from truckers, decrease costs by layoffs
They are aware, as it is public knowledge that train length and weight have increased in the last 10 years to be more efficient but stopping for emergencies are more difficult.
Norfolk Southern fought against a 2013 US Department of Transportation safety rule that would have limited the impact of the derailment so that the 2015 issue of the rule was down-scoped to cover only electronic brakes instead of breaking car-by-car to be installed by 2023 to only high-hazard flammable trains” carrying at least 20 consecutive loaded cars filled with liquids like crude oil. The Trump Administration repealed the law claiming cost exceeded benefit due to lobbyists from the petroleum & railroad industries.
Norfolk Southern, while lobbying against stronger transportation safety regulations, Norfolk Southern paid executives millions and spent $2.3 billions on stock buybacks in 2018 but used debt to do this— all while the company laid off 3-4 thousands employees due to decreased demand from Trumps trade wars that hit agriculture & manufacturing despite warnings that under staffing is intensifying safety risks. Due to trains 30% longer (now 2 miles long). Norfolk Southern officials also fought off a shareholder initiative that could have required company executives to “assess, review, and mitigate risks of hazardous material transportation.” by having the DOT removed by the Trump Administration.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics found that 54,539 train derailments occurred in the U.S. from 1990 to 2021, an average of 1,704 per year., and 12 derailments in 2023 as of 2-13-23
Norfolk Southern is entirely to blame for this, as is every politician they bribed(although they would use the more polite term of "donated to") in order to deregulate safety, etc. They are to blame for the accident and for all damage caused in Ohio, and they should be held liable for any lasting illnesses caused by this horrible accident.
Due to the bribed they paid out, an entire community has been damaged and the lasting effects have yet to be seen. This being said, if officials in HAZMAT suits are doing the clean-up, this spells disaster for an entire community.
They wanted profit over safety. They should all be held financially accountable and some of them should be jailed, along with all the politicians that they bribed!
CAUSES ASKS: "Should Ohio hold Norfolk Southern responsible? Let Gov. DeWine know what you think" ME:ABSOLUTELY! It is long past time for holding large corporations responsible for the many kinds of harm they cause..