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Norfolk Southern agrees to $310 million federal settlement for Ohio train derailment

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Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay $310 million to settle charges over a toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023. The majority of the settlement, estimated at $235 million, will cover all past and future cleanup costs. Additionally, the company will pay a $15 million civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. This agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice against Norfolk Southern for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act after the derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous substances ignited a dayslong fire, forcing local residents to evacuate and contaminating the soil and waterways.

“We are pleased we were able to reach a timely resolution of these investigations that recognizes our comprehensive response to the community’s needs and our mission to be the gold standard of safety in the rail industry,” said Alan Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. The company is committed to keeping their promises and investing in the community’s future for the long-haul. The settlement, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, will require Norfolk Southern to take measures to improve rail safety and pay for health monitoring and mental health services for the surrounding communities, among other actions.

The EPA stated on Thursday that the settlement also includes paying an estimated $7 million for remediation projects to curb pre-existing pollution and boost the region’s water quality. EPA Administrator Michael Regan emphasized that no community should have to experience the trauma inflicted upon the residents of East Palestine. This enforcement action ensures that the cleanup is paid for by the company and helps prevent another disaster like this from happening again. Norfolk Southern is estimated to have already spent approximately $1.7 billion in total costs associated with the incident, and the Thursday settlement won’t add to that figure as the company had already set aside money and had been anticipating the cost.

The cleanup effort is currently anticipated to conclude on or around November 2024, although this timeline may change according to EPA spokesman Remmington Belford. This resolution with the EPA comes one month after Norfolk Southern agreed to pay $600 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement related to the 2023 derailment. The company is taking responsibility for their actions and is working to make amends with the affected community. By complying with the terms of the settlement and taking action to improve rail safety and environmental conditions, Norfolk Southern aims to prevent future disasters and ensure the safety and well-being of the communities they serve.

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