Railroad, Government Reach a Figure on Ohio Derailment

Cleanup, claims, and safety upgrades to cost Norfolk Southern $500M
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2024 6:20 PM CDT
Norfolk Southern Agrees to Pay $500M Over Derailment
Portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed the night before burn in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 2023.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Norfolk Southern has reached an agreement with the federal government to pay more than $310 million to settle claims and cover costs stemming from the derailment last year of a freight train carrying hazardous materials in Ohio. The railroad also will spend $200 million on safety upgrades, Politico reports. In announcing the deal on Thursday, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the safety improvements, had they been in place then, might have prevented the disaster. "This resolution cannot undo the damage that was done last February, but we hope that this settlement will be an important step forward in protecting the community, helping it heal and preventing a tragedy like this from happening again," he said.

The railroad does not admit liability and won't face criminal charges, per the AP. The agreement includes a civil penalty of about $15 million, which Regan said is the maximum the law allows. Some residents who had to evacuate their homes in East Palestine said the deal won't inflict much pain on a company that reported a $527 million profit in the fourth quarter of last year and $53 million in the most recent quarter after derailment expenses. Its CEO received $13.4 million in total compensation last year. "Slaps on the wrist," Krissy Ferguson said. "A $15 million fine? And I can never go back to my home again?"

The money will fully cover federal expenditures on the derailment response, Regan said. Other spending by Norfolk Southern is to include, per Politico:

  • $15 million for a program to monitor surface and groundwater for 10 years.
  • $15 million for monitoring private drinking water.
  • $175,000 to pay for natural resource damage.
  • $25 million for a community health program over two decades.
(More East Palestine stories.)

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