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Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay $310 million to settle charges over a toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023. The majority of the settlement, estimated at $235 million, will cover past and future cleanup costs. Additionally, the company will pay a $15 million civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice against Norfolk Southern for allegedly violating the Clean Water Act after the derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous substances caused a dayslong fire, necessitating local evacuations and contaminating soil and waterways.

In a statement, Norfolk Southern’s president and CEO Alan Shaw expressed satisfaction with the timely resolution of the investigations. He emphasized the company’s commitment to safety and community support, stating that they will continue fulfilling promises and investing in the community’s future. The settlement, subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, will require Norfolk Southern to take measures to improve rail safety and provide health monitoring and mental health services for surrounding communities, among other actions. The company is also obligated to pay an estimated $7 million for remediation projects to address pre-existing pollution and enhance water quality in the region.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan highlighted the importance of holding companies accountable for environmental disasters, ensuring that cleanup costs are covered and measures are taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. Norfolk Southern has reportedly already spent around $1.7 billion in total costs associated with the incident, and the settlement with the EPA will not add to this figure as the company had set aside money and anticipated the cost. The cleanup effort is projected to conclude by November 2024, though this timeline is subject to change.

This settlement follows a previous agreement made by Norfolk Southern to pay $600 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement related to the 2023 derailment. The company’s willingness to address the environmental impact of the incident and provide support to affected communities reflects a commitment to corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. The cooperation between Norfolk Southern, regulatory agencies, and the local community highlights the importance of prompt and comprehensive responses to environmental disasters, emphasizing the need for companies to prioritize safety and environmental protection in their operations.

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