Company will pay $310 million for derailment and toxic fire

Company will pay 0 million for derailment and toxic fire

The company at the center of the Ohio train derailment and chemical spill will pay $310m (£243m) in a settlement with the US government.

Norfolk Southern will pay $235 million to cover the cost of cleaning up contaminated air, water and soil in East Palestine.

The February 2023 derailment caused a fire that burned dangerous cargo. The toxic fumes killed thousands of animals and forced many residents to flee.

In April, Norfolk Southern reached a $600 million class-action settlement with city residents.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice sued Norfolk Southern less than two months after last year’s derailment.

The lawsuit sought penalties and injunctive relief “for the illegal discharge of pollutants, oil, and hazardous substances” under the U.S. Clean Water Act.

The settlement, announced by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, requires Norfolk Southern to pay for long-term environmental monitoring, mental health services for residents and take steps to improve rail safety.

The company must also now pay a $15 million civil penalty for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

“Those who will benefit most directly from this settlement are those who were most directly affected by the disaster,” Acting Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Mizer said in a statement.

“Commitments on rail safety will help prevent future rail disasters,” added Mr Mizer.

A total of 38 train cars were derailed in the accident, 11 of which were transporting hazardous materials.

Afterwards, residents reported feeling unwell, with both physical and persistent psychological trauma of the incident.

Environmental officials also estimated that nearly 45,000 animals, mostly aquatic species, died within an 8-kilometer radius.

“No community should have to experience the trauma inflicted on the residents of East Palestine,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said Wednesday.

“Through this agreement, residents and first responders will have greater access to health services, trains will be safer and waterways will be cleaner.”

In a joint statement released hours after the deal was announced, Ohio Sen. JD Vance and Attorney General Dave Yost — both Republicans — said the deal risks “undercompensating” East Palestine residents.

The statement added that residents have not received information about the decision to “vent and burn” the derailed cars.

“The residents of East Palestine deserve full compensation for the hardships they have faced,” Vance and Yost said. “But they also deserve the full truth about why the derailment, ventilation and fire occurred.”

The agreement must still be approved by a federal judge. The final approval hearing is scheduled for September 25.

A separate $600 million class-action settlement was reached last year between Norfolk Southern and city residents.

In total, Norfolk Southern estimates it will spend more than $1 billion on its response to the derailment, including $200 million on new rail safety measures and $780 million on its environmental response.