(EAST PALESTINE, Ohio) — On the one-year anniversary of the devastating train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost vowed to get answers for the state’s lawsuit against Norfolk Southern in the absence of a full statement of facts from the primary investigating agency.
“This anniversary fuels so many emotions, and it’s understandable to want to bring this despairing chapter to a close,” Yost said.
“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.”
Disaster struck East Palestine a year ago on Feb. 3, the night that the Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in eastern Columbiana County, triggering the chemicals to release into the soil, water, and atmosphere, and forcing the evacuation of thousands of area residents.
“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.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the derailment but has yet to issue its completed findings.
In March, the Attorney General filed a 58-count federal lawsuit seeking to hold Norfolk Southern financially responsible for the derailment.
Yost is anticipating the NTSB findings in hopes that they answer crucial questions regarding:
-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 accident.
-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.
The team representing Ohio in the litigation met recently with Norfolk Southern to learn more details of the incident, noting that the railroad was cooperative. Still, many questions remain.
The health and safety of the people of East Palestine, along with the restoration and maintenance of the surrounding environment, continue to be our top priorities,” Yost said.
“No measure of time will impede the state’s desire to do right for the community now, and for many years to come.”
Yost added: I am committed to getting the people of East Palestine the answers and appropriate compensation they deserve, however long that takes.”