The Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ) sued Norfolk Southern, the operator of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, for environmental damage to rivers and air from the toxic spill.
The lawsuit was filed Friday. The DOJ is seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief against Norfolk Southern for the toxic spill. In addition, the DOJ is requesting that the court hold the company responsible for the full economic and human costs. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated:
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. With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to pursue justice for the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the community.
Holding Norfolk Southern accountable was the goal
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helped put together the lawsuit. Administrator Michael S. Regan said from the very beginning that he would hold Norfolk Southern responsible for the entire accident:
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. No community should have to go through what East Palestine residents have faced. With today’s action, we are once more delivering on our commitment to ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again.
Todd Kim, assistant attorney general of the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division, alluded to the damage that has affected the residents of East Palestine as a result of the derailment:
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 for the harm this event has caused. 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.