Norfolk Southern agrees to $310 million settlement over Ohio train derailment

By Shannon Kelleher

Norfolk Southern Corp. on Thursday announced it will pay more than $300 million to resolve investigations by three US agencies in the aftermath of a catastrophic train derailment last year that contaminated the town of East Palestine, Ohio with toxic chemicals.

The settlement resolves “all claims and investigations” by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the US Department of Interior arising from the February 2023 derailment in which 38 train cars carrying vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals ran off the tracks in northeastern Ohio.

The EPA said the company had agreed to the following:

Spending $235 million on past and future cleanup costs
Paying a $15 million civil penalty for violations of the Clean Water Act
Paying $25 million for a 20-year community health program that includes medical monitoring and mental health services.
Spending approximately $15 million to implement long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface water for a period of 10 years.
Paying $15 million for a private drinking water monitoring fund that will continue the existing private drinking water well monitoring program for 10 years.
Paying an estimated $6 million to implement several environmental remediation projects.

Norfolk Southern additionally said it would repay the EPA $57 million for response expenses and will spend $244 million on safety initiatives. These will include new monitoring devices along its tracks and better alarms for detecting overheated wheel bearings, according to the EPA.

“We are very, very pleased that Norfolk Southern has agreed to settlement terms that hold them accountable for disrupting the lives of the people of East Palestine, and help to bring some justice and a path towards closure to those who were affected by this disaster,” Rebecca Chattin Lutzko, interim US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said during a press conference on Thursday. “This settlement communicates to other, similar companies that they must take full responsibility for their actions.”