‘Entirely avoidable;’ Ohio AG sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine train derailment

EAST PALESTINE — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday that the state is suing Norfolk Southern following the train derailment in East Palestine last month.

Yost made the announcement during a virtual new conference at 2 p.m.

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Yost filed a 58-count civil lawsuit in federal court seeking to hold Norfolk Southern financially responsible for the Feb. 3 train derailment.

“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence,” Yost said. “The fallout from this highly preventable incident may continue for years to come, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects on our air, water and soil.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio, cites the company’s escalating accident rate, which has risen 80% in the past 10 years, according to Yost. At least 20 Norfolk Southern derailments since 2015 have involved chemical discharges.

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“The derailment was entirely avoidable and the direct 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 says.

A spokesperson for Norfolk Southern released the following statement in response to the lawsuit filed Tuesday:

“Every day since the derailment, our goal has been to make it right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities. We are making progress every day cleaning the site safely and thoroughly, providing financial assistance to residents and businesses that have been affected, and investing to help East Palestine and the communities around it thrive.

We are also listening closely to concerns from the community about whether there could be long-term impacts from the derailment. This week, we met with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to discuss three additional programs we plan to develop in conjunction with his office and other community leaders and stakeholders.

Many residents are worried about what they will do if health impacts related to the derailment are discovered years from now. We appreciate Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s leadership and advocacy on this point. To date, environmental monitoring continues to show the air and drinking water are safe. To provide an additional level of assurance, we are committed to a solution that addresses long-term health risks through the creation of a long-term medical compensation fund.

We also know residents are worried about their home values. While we are working with local leaders on investments to support the community’s long-term prosperity, we understand these concerns. We are committed to working with the community to provide tailored protection for home sellers if their property loses value due to the impact of the derailment.

Finally, we have heard the community’s interest in programs that protect drinking water over the long term. We are prepared to work with stakeholders toward that goal as well.

We look forward to working toward a final resolution with Attorney General Yost and others as we coordinate with his office, community leaders, and other stakeholders to finalize the details of these programs.”

—  Norfolk Southern Spokesperson

We will continue updating this story.

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