Comprehensive Agreement Reached Between Norfolk Southern and U.S. Government

In a significant development, Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay more than $310 million to settle a U.S. government lawsuit related to the February 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The proposed consent decree, outlined in court documents, requires the railroad to make substantial safety improvements, install additional safety equipment, enhance training, and cover medical monitoring costs for health impacts linked to the incident.

5 Key Points

  • Norfolk Southern will pay over $310 million to resolve the U.S. government lawsuit.
  • The settlement includes significant safety improvements, additional equipment, and enhanced training.
  • The railroad will cover medical monitoring costs for health impacts related to the derailment.
  • Norfolk Southern will reimburse the EPA for future response costs.
  • The company previously agreed to a $600 million class-action settlement with residents and businesses.

The February 2023 incident involved a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials, including toxic, flammable vinyl chloride gas, which can cause certain cancers. The derailment led to the evacuation of residents and a controlled gas release to prevent an explosion.

U.S. Justice Department and EPA Lawsuit

In March 2023, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern to ensure the railroad covers the total cost of cleanup and any long-term effects resulting from the derailment. Under the proposed consent decree, Norfolk Southern will reimburse the EPA for future response costs.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan emphasized the settlement’s importance, stating, “No community should have to experience the trauma inflicted upon the residents of East Palestine. Because of this settlement, residents and first responders will have greater access to health services, safer trains, and cleaner waterways.”

Norfolk Southern’s Response

While not admitting wrongdoing, Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw expressed the company’s commitment to making things suitable for the residents of East Palestine and surrounding areas. He noted that the timely resolution of the investigations recognizes the company’s comprehensive response to the community’s needs and its mission to be the gold rail industry safety standard.

Additional Settlements and Estimated Costs

In addition to the $310 million settlement, Norfolk Southern recently agreed to pay $600 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by residents and businesses in East Palestine and impacted surrounding communities. The company estimates it will spend more than $1 billion to address contamination and other harms caused by the derailment and improve rail safety and operations.