(Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images)
OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 3:57 PM PT – Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has announced in a press briefing that the state has filed a complaint against Norfolk Southern Railway over last month’s toxic train derailment in East Palestine.
According to the 58-count complaint filed in federal court on Tuesday, the railway operator was accused of breaking numerous federal, state, and local environmental laws as well as Ohio Common Law, “recklessly endangering” the health of locals and the state’s natural resources.
Additionally, the federal complaint aimed to make the firm pay for future groundwater and soil monitoring as well as for economic losses in the East Palestine hamlet and its neighboring areas.
“This derailment was entirely avoidable and I’m concerned that Norfolk Southern may be putting profits for their own company above the health and safety of the cities and communities that they operate in,” Yost said.
The 58-count complaint comes after the February 3rd incident where over 50 cars of a freight train, operated by Norfolk Southern, derailed in a catastrophic collision, dispersing dangerous chemicals into the air, the ground, and nearby waterways.
It was reported that a big ball of fire and a cloud of poisonous black smoke rose into the air as a result of officials purposefully releasing and burning deadly vinyl chloride from five rail cars amid fears that an explosion would occur.
Other allegations in the case include prohibited discharge into state waters, failure to have a contingency plan, and illegal dumping of hazardous waste.
Yost stated that the lawsuit aims to redress any economic and long-term health effects that East Palestine residents might incur as a result of the incident. He stated that he met with Norfolk Southern representatives on Monday to go over potential compensation, including a fund to cover any “delayed” health effects and a fund to cover long-term damages to real estate prices.
“This lawsuit is designed to make sure that Norfolk Southern keeps their word to the people of East Palestine and the people of Ohio,” Yost said.
Following the announcement of the lawsuit, Norfolk Southern issued a statement stating that it is “closely listening to community concerns about whether there could be long-term repercussions from the incident.”
“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,” the statement said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for the cleanup of the train wreck and chemical release.
This lawsuit comes as Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw apologized before Congress last week for the impact the derailment has had on the area, but he did not make specific commitments to pay for long-term health and economic harm.
“We are firmly committed to the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Shaw said. “Many of the people I’ve met are angry, scared and concerned about the future. I understand their skepticism that a big corporation such as Norfolk Southern will do the right thing, and we are determined to earn their trust.”
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