DOJ Files Lawsuit Against Norfolk Southern Over Ohio Derailment

Faced with tremendous criticism of its seemingly muted response to the train derailment that resulted in a toxic chemical leak in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this year, the Biden administration was quick to point the finger at former President Donald Trump and Norfolk Southern, the company that owned and operated the train.

This week, the Department of Justice confirmed that it had filed a lawsuit against the rail line, which had previously been ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency to fund the cleanup required as a result of the derailment.

Court documents filed on Thursday claim that Norfolk Southern was guilty of “unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways” and the lawsuit seeks “to ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup.”

The transportation company is still working with the EPA to conduct testing and environmental cleanup in East Palestine, as referenced on Norfolk Southern’s website. EPA Administrator Michael Regan indicated earlier this month that the efforts will likely take at least three months.

According to the company, it is “working toward long-term funds” to benefit the community, including nearly $28 million for scholarships, a training center, payments to first responders, and other related programs.

The Justice Department lawsuit is seeking a judgment that will provide fines as authorized under the Clean Water Act that will be used to cover previous and future costs associated with the response to the Feb. 3 crash.

So far, nearly 12,000 tons of soil and more than 9 million gallons of wastewater have been removed from the area near the train crash.

After regularly monitoring the air quality in almost two dozen separate locations, the EPA stated that “no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride have been identified.”

In a recent update, the agency stated that it “has reviewed preliminary data from some of the soil sampling related to the controlled burn that occurred during response actions to the train derailment in East Palestine,” adding: “While final results will be available in the coming weeks, EPA’s review of the preliminary data indicates levels of semi-volatile organic chemicals and dioxins in the samples are similar to typical background levels.”