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Norfolk Southern agrees to pay $600 million to settle lawsuit over East Palestine train derailment

The rail operator announced that the settlement (which has yet to be approved by the court) "will resolve all class actions within a 20-mile radius" of the rollover.

East Palestine (Ohio) accident on February 3, 2023.

(Wikimedia Commons)

Norfolk Southern agreed to pay $600 million in a resolution of a class action lawsuit due to the derailment of one of its trains in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023 that was transporting hazardous material.

The railway operator announced in a press release that the agreement, which still must be approved by the court, "will resolve all class action claims within a 20-mile radius from the derailment and, for those residents who choose to participate, personal injury claims within a 10-mile radius from the derailment.”

Likewise, the text indicated that "individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment":

In March 2023, the company made commitments to address three long-term concerns of residents: drinking water, home values, and healthcare. Already, the company has announced programs for drinking water and home value assurance. The company is going further through this comprehensive settlement—providing additional, significant monetary relief to individuals, including for healthcare, and to help qualifying local businesses continue to rebuild and grow.

Judge must approve the agreement for it to be finalized

The text states that the money will be granted in the form of compensation to "make it right in East Palestine" and nearby communities. Likewise, it indicated that contributions have been made that include:

- $104 million in community assistance for East Palestine and surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including $25 million for a regional safety training center, $25 million in planned improvements to the East Palestine city park, $21 million in direct payments to residents and $9 million for local first responders.

- $4.3 million to support improvements in drinking water infrastructure.

- $2 million for community-led projects.

- $500,000 grant for economic development.

- Ongoing support to the community through the Family Assistance Center and programs such as the Interim Value Guarantee Program.

What happened on Feb. 3, 2023?

It was 8:55 a.m. in Ohio when the 38 Norfolk Southern cars overturned, left the track and crashed in a spectacular accident. Of those 38 freight cars, at least 20 were carrying hazardous material.

Following the crash, these materials began to burn and caused a gigantic fire that was visible from several different points in the county. The containers with sensitive cargo carried vinyl chloride, benzene residues and butyl acrylate.

Emergency services could not act immediately on the fire due to its size and had to let that terrible column of smoke rise for several hours. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine deployed the National Guard on Feb. 5, and the next day, evacuations were ordered for residents within 2 miles of the crash site.

Major pollution concerns

Along with air pollution due to the large cloud of smoke, the soil and water from the stream that circulates along East Palestine were major sources of concern for authorities and residents.

"We've had a lot of fears and anxieties that have come up in the past year that absolutely breaks my heart as a parent," said Misti Allison to NPR. The East Palestine resident and activist with the group Moms Clean Air Force returned home after the evacuation and says there is still a lot to clean up in the town.

According to the railroad company, the agreement is "another promise kept by Norfolk Southern to make it right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities." Additionally, the company said that the agreement is "designed to provide finality and flexibility for settlement class members" and that "individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment."