Drone footage shows the derailment of a freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, United States, on February 6, 2023 in this screenshot, obtained from a video post released by the NTSB.
NTSB Gov. | via Reuters
On Friday, the Justice Department said it had filed a lawsuit against her Southern Norfolkintended to hold the railroad company liable for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act that were allegedly caused by the derailment of an Ohio train in early February.
In February, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed near the Pennsylvania border in East Palestine, Ohio, causing a fire, collisions and local evacuations.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, seeks “injunctive relief, reimbursement of costs, and civil penalties” for the alleged violations.
“With this complaint, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to bring justice to the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern bears the financial burden of the harm it has caused and continues to do to the community,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday.
In an emailed statement to CNBC, the Norfolk Southern representative said the company’s focus “at the moment is to make progress every day in cleaning up the site, helping residents whose lives have been affected by the aberration, and investing in the future of East Palestine and surrounding areas.”
“We are working with urgency, under the guidance of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and making progress every day,” the spokesperson continued. “This remains our focus and we will continue to work until we get it right.”
Since the derailment, southern Norfolk has been in a heated argument with state and federal officials regarding the environmental impacts of the derailment.
The state of Ohio also sued Norfolk Southern in an effort to ensure that the company pays for environmental damages and cleanup efforts, which Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said the company will continue to support. Shaw and several government officials said it was safe to live in the area, but residents had complained of illnesses.
“No community should have to go through what the people of East Palestine have faced,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement about the lawsuit, which was filed Thursday.
“The lawsuit represents the agency’s commitment to ensuring that Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they have made and pays for the damages they have caused while we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again,” he added.
On Thursday, three senators introduced a new rail safety bill in an effort to address longstanding concerns that have become more acute in light of Norfolk’s southern derailment.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw waits to testify about the derailment of an East Palestine, Ohio train before a hearing of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill, in Washington, US, March 9, 2023.
Mary F Calvert | Reuters
Last week, Shaw told senators that his company supports parts of a nearby bill, the Railroad Safety Act, which includes provisions calling for two-person crews on all freight trains. That was a sticking point, as Shaw said the company “wasn’t aware of any data linking crew size to safety.”
Otherwise, Xu said in prepared remarks that he agrees “in principle” with parts of the legislation, such as “establishing performance standards, maintenance standards, and alert limits for safety sensors.”
The new bill, called the Railroad Accountability Act, would direct the Federal Railroad Department to study wheel-related failures, derailments, and other mechanical defects.
It will also enact new brake safety measures and ensure that the railways provide workers with adequate reporting and safety equipment.
An initial National Transportation Safety Board report indicated an overheated wheel on the derailed Norfolk Southern train, without providing a specific reason for the derailment.
CNBC’s Noah Schedlauer contributed to this article.