Ohio is now suing Norfolk Southern over the toxic train accident near East Palestine last month that unleashed clouds of dangerous chemicals and crippled a thriving community.
Tens of thousands of animals perished in a narrow radius around the derailment, and residents report ailments ranging from rashes to voice issues. Even the drinking water is questioned by locals, who must live in fear after the accident and tepid government response.
Those charged with site cleanup were not given proper gear, according to the suit. They had little training and reportedly did not even have enough rubber gloves.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told a press conference that the state’s 58-count lawsuit alleges multiple violations of state and federal law.
The legal filing seeks damages, civil penalties, and a “declaratory judgment that Norfolk Southern is responsible.” Yost declared the accident to be “entirely avoidable” and said Ohio and its residents will deal with the fallout “for many years to come.”
Among compensation sought by the state is repaying ongoing expenditures for natural resources damaged in the derailment, emergency response costs and financial harm to Ohio and its residents.
The state asserted that there have been at least 20 Norfolk Southern derailments since 2015 that led to chemical discharge. It cited a “long string” of accidents and hazmat incidents as proof of negligence by the company.
Ohio formally asked for $75,000 in minimum federal damages. Of course, the actual financial compensation from the railroad company will likely be exponentially higher than that paltry sum.
Anger erupted when a Norfolk Southern representative attended a recent town hall meeting to address residents’ concerns. Many still call for a complete evacuation of the area and a buyout of local properties.
Apparently both options are not being considered.
Furthering the townspeoples’ frustrations was the ridiculously slow federal response. It took nearly a month for Washington to put serious boots on the ground and treat it like the disaster it was and is.
Ohio officials are right to go after Norfolk Southern for the derailment and its aftermath. They are also correct in their anger at the lackluster reaction by the Biden administration to an obvious catastrophe. However, there is little recourse to pursue against Washington’s ineptitude.