COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has filed a 58-count civil lawsuit against Norfolk Southern in federal court, seeking financial responsibility for the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine that resulted in the release of over 1 million gallons of hazardous chemicals. The lawsuit accuses Norfolk Southern of “recklessly endangering” the health of residents and Ohio’s natural resources.
According to Yost, the derailment was “entirely avoidable” and was the result of Norfolk Southern’s “practice of putting its own profits above the health, safety and welfare of the communities in which Norfolk Southern operates.”
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio, cites the company’s rising accident rate, which has increased by 80% in the past decade. Since 2015, at least 20 Norfolk Southern derailments involving chemical discharges have occurred.
The suit accuses Norfolk Southern of numerous violations, including 58 violations of various federal and state environmental laws and Ohio Common Law, such as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), Ohio’s Hazardous Waste Law, Ohio’s Water Pollution Control Law, Ohio’s Solid Waste Law, Ohio’s Air Pollution Control Law, Common Law Negligence, Common Law Public Nuisance, Common Law Trespass, and more.
The violations resulted in hazardous pollutants being released into the air, water, and ground, posing substantial long-term threats to human health and the environment. The derailment caused substantial damage to the regional economy of Ohio, its citizens, and its businesses.
In response, Ohio is entitled to recover lost taxes and economic losses it has suffered. Yost seeks injunctive relief, civil penalties, costs, damages, and court costs. This includes a declaratory judgment holding Norfolk Southern responsible, recovery of costs and damages under the CERCLA and Ohio law for emergency response, repayment of damages under common law, repayment of costs under common law, civil penalties under state environmental laws, repayment of court costs, and more. The damages will far exceed the federal jurisdictional minimum of $75,000.
Yost also asks the court to require Norfolk Southern to conduct future monitoring of soil and groundwater at the derailment location, the surrounding areas, and beyond, and to submit a closure plan to the Ohio EPA. The lawsuit would also prohibit Norfolk Southern from disposing of additional waste at the derailment site and from polluting Ohio waters.
In response to the lawsuit, Norfolk Southern has stated through their website dedicated to the East Palestine derailment, NSMakingItRight.com ,that they are committed to doing what’s right for East Palestine to ensure the community recovers and thrives. The company has spent over $24 million on clean-up efforts and assisting the local community according to their website.
Norfolk Southern still has a few cars on a derailment site in Delaware, Ohio, left to clean up near Curve Road from January 27.
This is a continuing story, DelawareO.com has reached out to Norfolk Sothern for further comment on the law suit, and Delaware, Ohio clean up efforts.