EPA and DOJ Take Legal Action Against Norfolk Southern Railway

Norfolk Southern Train derailment. freight cars

(Credit: NTSB)

by | Apr 3, 2023

This article is included in these additional categories:

Norfolk Southern Train derailment. freight cars

(Credit: NTSB)

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio have filed a complaint against Norfolk Southern Railway Company for the unlawful discharge of pollutants, oil, and hazardous substances under the Clean Water Act. The complaint was filed in coordination with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice.

Per the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the agencies are seeking penalties and injunctive relief, and declaratory judgment on liability for past and future costs  This follows the EPA’s issuance of a Unilateral Administrative Order under CERCLA to Norfolk Southern on February 21. Consequently, requiring the company to develop and implement plans to address contamination. In addition to paying the EPA’s response costs associated with the order.

East Palestine Derailment 

This action comes after a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023, resulting in a pile of burning rail cars and contamination of the community’s air, land, and water. Residents near the derailment site were evacuated. Toxic materials in the cars included vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, and benzene residue.

Monitoring on February 5th detected a temperature increase inside a rail car transporting vinyl chloride. To prevent a potential explosion, Norfolk Southern incinerated five rail cars containing vinyl chloride in a flare trench the following day, resulting in additional emissions of the substance.

Response from the EPA & DOJ

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan stated, “From the very beginning, I pledged to the people of East Palestine that EPA would hold Norfolk Southern fully accountable for jeopardizing the community’s health and safety.”

“When a Norfolk Southern train derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, it released toxins into the air, soil, and water, endangering the health and safety of people in surrounding communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to ensure that Norfolk Southern is held accountable for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the residents of East Palestine.”

Unilateral Administrative Order to Norfolk Southern

Since February 21, Norfolk Southern has been overseen by the EPA. As of March 29, 9.2 million gallons of liquid wastewater and 12,932 tons of contaminated soils and solids had been shipped off-site. Over the coming months, federal agencies will continue investigating the circumstances surrounding the derailment. Pending additional data, the United States will pursue further actions as warranted in the future.

“Last month, the East Palestine community was upended by a horrific train derailment. By filing this complaint today, we are demanding accountability from Norfolk Southern Railway for the harm this event has caused,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will tirelessly pursue justice for the people living in and near East Palestine, who like all Americans deserve clean air, clean water, and a safe community for their children.”

Additional articles you will be interested in.

Stay Informed

Get E+E Leader Articles delivered via Newsletter right to your inbox!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Share This