In the details of the complaint, the AG accused the railroad of “numerous violations” of state and federal environmental laws.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – During a news conference Tuesday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that the state has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern On February 3, a toxic train derailed in Eastern Palestine.
Detailing the 58-count complaint, Yost accused the railroad of “numerous violations” of state and federal environmental laws. He added that the statement “seems to contain Norfolk and [sic] The South is responsible for its actions.”
“This derailment was entirely avoidable,” Yost said, “and I am concerned that Norfolk and [sic] Southern may be putting their company’s profits ahead of the health and safety of the cities and communities in which they operate.”
It has been more than five weeks since the train derailment, which led to ongoing health problems after chemicals were released at the site. According to Yost, there has been an 80% increase in crashes in south Norfolk over the past decade, with about 20% of those crashes involving some sort of chemical spill.
Yost took aim at the railroad’s “negligence” in the crash, which the National Transportation Safety Board said was caused by wheel bearing failure. In addition to financial damages for the cleanup, property damage and lost profits for businesses, the attorney general is also requiring the company to continue to monitor water and soil, and not release hazardous materials at the derailment site.
“The effects of this preventable accident will reverberate across Ohio for years to come,” Yost said of the “epic disaster.” “The big point of this lawsuit is to make sure that these long-term effects are not only not forgotten, but addressed.”
In response to Yost’s lawsuit, Norfolk Southern released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
“Every day since the derailment, our goal has been to make things right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. We are making progress every day by safely and thoroughly cleaning up the site, providing financial assistance to affected residents and businesses, and investing to help East Palestine and the communities around it thrive.
“We are also listening carefully to the public’s concerns about whether there could be long-term effects of the derailment. This week, we met with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to discuss three additional programs we plan to develop with his office and other community leaders and stakeholders.
“Many residents are concerned about what they will do if the health effects of the derailment are discovered years from now. We appreciate Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership and advocacy on this issue. To date, environmental monitoring continues to show that air and drinking water To provide an additional level of certainty, we aim for a solution that eliminates long-term health risks by creating a long-term health care compensation fund.
“We also know that residents are concerned about the value of their homes. As we work with local leaders to make investments to support long-term community prosperity, we understand these challenges. We are committed to working with the community to provide individual protection for home sellers if their property loses value due to the impact of a derailment.
“Finally, we heard the community’s interest in programs that protect drinking water in the long term. We are also ready to work with stakeholders to achieve this goal.
“We look forward to working on a final decision with Attorney General Yost and others as we coordinate with his office, community leaders and other stakeholders to finalize the details of these programs.”
Last week, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw was questioned during a US Senate committee hearingduring which he apologized and promised to help the East Palestinian community recover.
“I’m very sorry for the effect this derailment has had on the people of this community,” Shaw said during the hearing. “We will be there as long as it takes to help Eastern Palestine prosper and rebuild.”
It’s also where Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts repeatedly asked Shaw if Norfolk Southern commits to compensating homeowners for diminished property values after the train wreck.
“Senator, I am committed to doing what is right,” Shaw replied.
Yost said today that he had spoken personally with railroad officials, and while he said those conversations were productive and that those employees “want to do the right thing,” he vowed to “make sure they keep their promise.”
“Our promise to the people of East Palestine and the people of Ohio is a good one: We will not back down, we will not give up, we will not surrender,” he declared, “but we will end up in a place where there is justice for all people, for the economy, and for the environment.”
Several civil suits have already been filed against Norfolk Southern, and so has the NTSB launched a special investigation into railway culture and safety.
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