DOJ Sues Rail Company Over Derailment

DOJ Sues Rail Company Over Derailment

( – After citizens complained about the slow federal response to the February 3 derailment of train cars carrying toxic chemicals, two US agencies are taking action against the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed suit against Norfolk Southern. A Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, with more than 50 cars leaving the tracks. At least ten cars were carrying toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride.

Cleanup crews decided to do a “controlled burn” of the vinyl chloride. This released a mushroom cloud of toxic smoke containing phosgene, a gaseous weapon used in World War I. As environmental officials and local leaders assured residents the area was safe, locals posted videos online depicting fish floating dead atop rivers.

About half the population of 5,000 people was temporarily evacuated from East Palestine.

The DOJ suit wants to hold Norfolk Southern responsible for illegally discharging oil, hazardous chemicals, and other pollutants under the Clean Water Act. The suit asks the court to make Norfolk Southern pay current and future cleanup costs and monetary damages.

Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement about the suit on March 31, saying the EPA and the DOJ are “pursuing justice” and ensuring Norfolk Southern pays the costs for the disaster.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the agency “would hold Norfolk Southern fully accountable” for putting health and safety in danger.

When the freight train derailed in early February, local residents and Ohio politicians were dismayed at what they perceived as the White House and federal agencies ignoring locals’ plight. President Biden never toured the disaster site, though former president Donald Trump did.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also caught flak for taking 20 days to show up at the site. Critics noted that while East Palestine was covered in toxic chemicals, Buttigieg was on social media promoting racial “equity” and complaining that not enough “people of color” were employed in infrastructure jobs.

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