Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Tuesday filed a complaint against railroad giant Norfolk Southern over a February 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that led to the widespread release of hazardous materials and mass evacuations.
Yost brought the suit at the request of the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The complaint, which contains 58 counts for relief under numerous state and federal environmental laws, asserts:
[The East Palestine derailment] was just one in a long string of Norfolk Southern train derailments, hazmat incidents/community evacuations, and releases of hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, and/or other harmful pollutants into the environment . . . at least 20 of those derailments since 2015 have involved chemical releases.
Ohio is seeking injunctive relief, civil penalties, redress for “damages to the State’s natural resources,” a declaratory judgment, and reimbursement of the state EPA’s response costs. The complaint also seeks damages under Ohio common law negligence, nuisance and trespass.
Additionally, the complaint asserts that the derailment “was both foreseeable and preventable,” detailing numerous incidents of derailments that Norfolk Southern has been involved in over recent years. Yost also references two Norfolk Southern derailments that have occurred since the East Palestine derailment—one on March 4 in Springfield, Ohio and one on March 9 in Calhoun County, Alabama.
Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence . . . The fallout from this highly preventable incident may continue for years to come, and there’s still so much we don’t know about the long-term effects on our air, water and soil.
In February, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources announced that chemicals from the derailment had been found in waterways near the Ohio River. US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called on Norfolk Southern to comply with safety regulations, and the US Environmental Protection Agency also ordered the company to undertake clean-up efforts.