$600 Million Settlement Reached Following East Palestine Wreck

The agreement with Norfolk Southern and residents of East Palestine, Ohio, still needs to be approved by a judge. Photo by Joseph Zadeh.

$600 Million Settlement Reached Following East Palestine Wreck

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

More than a year after a freight train derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio, — putting Norfolk Southern and the railroad industry in an unwanted national spotlight — the Class I railroad has announced a $600 million settlement with the community. 

The agreement was announced on April 9, and still needs to be approved by a judge. The agreement 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.

The settlement adds to previous financial commitments made by the railroad. Since the wreck, NS has given $104 million in community assistance to East Palestine and the surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including $25 million for a regional safety training center, $25 million in planned improvements to East Palestine’s city park, $21 million in direct payments to residents, and $9 million to local first responders. It has also spent $4.3 million to upgrade drinking water infrastructure. 

In the press release, the railroad states that “this agreement does not include or constitute any admission of liability, wrongdoing, or fault.” 

On the night of February 3, 2023, an eastbound NS manifest freight with 150 cars derailed near East Palestine, forcing an evacuation of the community. Amazingly, no one was killed. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, at least 50 cars derailed and 10 of them were loaded with hazardous materials. Five of the derailed cars contained vinyl chloride, a dangerous gas used to make plastic products. The wreck caught fire and burned for days. On February 6, the railroad conducted a “controlled release” to try and burn off more material and avoid a more disastrous uncontrolled explosion. The fiery release resulted in a thick black smoke plume that looked like something from a disaster movie. The NTSB found that a hot bearing had caused the wreck.

This article was posted on: April 12, 2024