US, Norfolk Southern reach over $310M settlement over East Palestine derailment

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Norfolk Southern Railway Company to pay for the damage caused by the February 2023 train derailment in East Palestine.

The over $310 million settlement, which still needs to be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, is aimed at holding Norfolk Southern accountable, according to the DOJ.

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If approved, it will require Norfolk Southern to take measures to improve rail safety, pay for health monitoring and mental health services for the surrounding communities, fund long-term environmental monitoring, pay a $15 million civil penalty, and take other actions to protect nearby waterways and drinking water resources.

Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern has agreed to:

  • Spend an estimated $235 million for all past and future cleanup costs, so that cleanup efforts can continue and the company, rather than taxpayers, covers the cost.
  • Pay $25 million for a 20-year community health program that includes medical monitoring for qualified individuals, mental health services for individuals residing in affected counties as well as first responders who worked at the site, and a community facilitation plan to assist community members in using the benefits of the program.
  • Spend approximately $15 million to implement long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface water for a period of 10 years.
  • Pay $15 million for a private drinking water monitoring fund that will continue the existing private drinking water well monitoring program for 10 years.
  • Implement a “waterways remediation plan,” with an estimated budget of $6 million, for projects in Leslie Run and Sulphur Run that will prioritize addressing historical pollution, reducing non-point source pollution through infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management projects, and restoring aquatic and riparian habitat.
  • Pay a $15 million civil penalty to resolve the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act
  • Pay $175,000 for natural resource damages, to be used by the United States to restore, rehabilitate, replace, or acquire the equivalent of the natural resources injured as a result of the derailment.

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The settlement would also require Norfolk Southern to improve coordination with government officials and other stakeholders during emergency responses.

“The President issued an executive order which promised to address the disaster’s long-term effects and to hold Norfolk Southern responsible for its train derailing and the burning of hazardous chemicals in East Palestine. This settlement helps fulfill that promise,” Acting Associate Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer said.

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