Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over devastating and ‘entirely avoidable’  train derailment in East Palestine

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Ohio is taking Norfolk Southern to federal court over the disastrous Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine that turned the sky overhead black with toxic chemicals, poisoned nearby wildlife, and chased residents from their homes.

The state’s 58-count federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Republican Attorney General Dave Yost accuses the railway of “recklessly endangering” both the health of Ohioans and the state’s natural resources.


This suit, which comes just days after another another Norfolk Southern train went off the tracks in Alabama, seeks to ensure that the scandal-plagued, politically invested, and accident-prone company pays to clean up its mess, continues monitoring groundwater and soil for years to come, and compensates those economically devastated by the derailment.

“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence,” Yost said in a statement. “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.”

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While the railway, which recently celebrated “double-digit percentage growth in revenue and … record revenue and operating income,” has suggested it will do right by its apparent victims, Yost isn’t leaving anything to chance.

The Ohio attorney general underscored that this lawsuit “will make sure that Norfolk Southern keeps its word.”


The lawsuit notes that the Feb. 3 derailment resulted “in the release of over one million gallons of hazardous materials, hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, and/or other harmful pollutants into Ohio’s air, streams, river, soil, and groundwater, killing tens of thousands of fish and other animals, and recklessly endangering the health of Ohioans throughout the region.”

According to the suit, Norfolk Southern’s “negligent, willful, wanton, and/or reckless conduct caused the contamination of the environment.”

The Norfolk Southern train consisted of 141 loaded cars, nine empty cars, and three locomotives. Around 50 cars went off the tracks. A number of the cars contained hazardous material. After the cars went off the tracks, the railway conducted a “controlled release” of some of their contents, suggesting that a failure to do so could otherwise have proven deadlier.

“Defendants breached the duty of care by causing the Derailment and resulting fires,” said the suit.

Among the toxic chemicals stored in the wrecked cars were vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene.

“Defendants breached the duty of care by failing to promptly, effectively, and safely control, mitigate, and remediate the release of hazardous materials, hazardous substances, hazardous wastes, and/or other harmful pollutants at the time of and following the Derailment, including but not limited to intentionally burning vinyl chloride after the Derailment.”

Burning vinyl chloride — as the railroad company ultimately did in the case of some of the over 877,000 pounds contained in train 32N’s rail cars — turns it into hydrogen chloride and phosgene gas, the later of which was used as a weapon of mass slaughter in World War I.

TheBlaze previously reported that contrary to claims made by Environmental Protection Agency officials, a team of researchers from Texas A&M found that there continue to be abnormally high levels of airborne toxins resultant of the railway’s hazmat spill and controlled burn that could jeopardize the long-term health of residents in the area.

According to the suit, pollutants from at least 39 rail cars have made their way into Sulfur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, the Ohio River, and potentially other waterways.

The lawsuit underscores that the “derailment was entirely avoidable and the direct result of Norfolk Southern’s practice of putting its own profits above the health, safety and welfare of the communities in which Norfolk Southern operates,” citing an 80% rise in the company’s accident rate over the past 10 years and at least 20 derailments since 2015 involving chemical discharges.

It further notes that the company has “an extensive and tragic history” of similar derailments and hazmat releases resulting in calamity.

Federal data indicates that Norfolk Southern accounted for over half the hazmat damages involving rail transportation in 2022.


Yost indicated in his release that Ohio is seeking injunctive relief, civil penalties, costs, damages, and court costs, including:

  • “A declaratory judgment holding Norfolk Southern responsible”;
  • “Recovery of costs and damages under the CERCLA and Ohio law for emergency response”;
  • “Repayment of damages under common law”;
  • “Repayment of costs under common law, including present and future costs incurred by the state in responding to the emergency, providing public services, preventing future harm to the environment and public health, restoring natural resources, and abating the nuisance”;
  • “Civil penalties under state environmental laws”; and
  • “Repayment of court costs.”

The New York Times reported that Norfolk Southern has been in discussion with Yost’s office.

In a statement the company said, “We look forward to working toward a final resolution with Attorney General Yost and others as we coordinate with his office, community leaders, and other stakeholders to finalize the details of these programs.”

Extra to Ohio’s suit, Norfolk Southern faces an investigation by Pennsylvania’s attorney general into whether criminal charges are warranted as well as an order by the EPA to clean up any contamination resultant of the East Palestine derailment.

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