(The Center Square) – Nearly a year after a toxic train derailment left East Palestine, Ohio, reeling, a lawsuit aimed at helping the city and state recover is still ongoing.
Attorney General Dave Yost continues to wait for answers.
“This anniversary fuels so many emotions, and it’s understandable to want to bring this despairing chapter to a close,” Yost said at a Friday news conference. “But rushing matters would be a disservice to the community, as we still need answers to so many questions. Those answers will help us ensure that tragedies like this don’t happen again in Ohio or elsewhere.”
Yost’s comments come on the eve of the first anniversary of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailing, leading to chemicals released into the soil, water and air, forcing the evacuation of thousands of area residents.
As previously reported by The Center Square, the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the derailment on an overheated wheel bearing. There were no injuries from the crash.
The NTSB has yet to issue complete findings.
In March, Yost filed a 58-count federal lawsuit to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for the derailment. He wants specific answers from the NTSB final report, including:
• Details of the inspection, maintenance and use of the rail car on which the bearing failed.
• What responsibilities the owners and shipper of the failed bearing car and the cars containing hazardous materials had to Norfolk Southern.
• The criteria for the placement, inspection, and type of wayside safety equipment and detectors.
• Were changes made to the system to make it more efficient?
• Whether Norfolk Southern safety monitoring equipment was adequate.
• Whether adjusted heat detection could have prevented the crash.
• How the cars containing vinyl chloride were maintained and equipped with safety equipment.
• Whether aluminum safety valves (rather than steel valves) had an effect.
• Factors that went into the “vent and burn” decision regarding the cars containing hazardous materials.
“There are whispers of a settlement being worked out to bring this tragedy to an end – and make no mistake, we all want closure on this avoidable disaster,” Yost said. “But I cannot, in good conscience, agree to a settlement without a detailed understanding of what happened, who is responsible, and how we avoid other communities like East Palestine from being victims to this type of incident. No responsible person should want a rush to judgment in the form of a settlement without having all the facts. It would be irresponsible.”
On Sept. 20, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that White House officials said would protect the people of East Palestine and the surrounding area and continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for the Feb. 3 derailment and chemical release.
That order requires the EPA to designate a coordinator to oversee long-term recovery efforts and assess needs not met by the rail company that would qualify for federal assistance.
That order also keeps the state’s July request from Gov. Mike DeWine for a disaster declaration open, allowing FEMA to recommend a declaration later.