NORFOLK Southern (NS) reported on May 23 it had agreed to pay a $US 15m penalty in relation to the derailment and chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3 2023.

Under the agreement, which is subject to court approval, the Class I railway said it will “formalise several commitments to address environmental remediation, health monitoring, and rail safety,” including:

  • paying a $US 15m civil penalty and reimbursing the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) for its full response expenses, which are approximately $US 57m to the end of November 2023, as well as subsequent response costs
  • completing the clean-up of the derailment site, implementing several environmental remediation projects to address existing pollution and to improve water quality in the region at an estimated cost of $US 7m
  • continue to monitor of groundwater and surface water, that will cost up to $US 15m, while establishing a drinking water monitoring programme, which is estimated to cost $US 15m over 10 years
  • establishing a $US 25m community health programme that will provide medical exams and mental health services for the community and first responders for up to 20 years, and
  • spending $US 244m on safety initiatives until 2025, as part of the company’s Six Point Safety Plan, including investment in safety infrastructure, technology, and training.

The agreement comes shortly after a $US 600m class action settlement was signed off by a federal judge. All of the financial impacts above have, says NS, either been previously estimated as part of the total $US 1.7bn recognised in response to the incident up to March 31 2024, or are included as part of the company’s ongoing financial outlook.

“From Day One, it was important for Norfolk Southern to make things right for the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas,” says Mr Alan Shaw, NS president and CEO. “We are pleased we were able to reach a timely resolution of these investigations that recognises our comprehensive response to the community’s needs and our mission to be the gold standard of safety in the rail industry.“