Norfolk Southern Railroad is opposing efforts by the federal government and the State of Ohio to recoup the costs of cleaning up hazardous materials left following the derailment of one of their trains in East Palestine on February 3, 2023.

Answering lawsuits filed earlier this year on behalf of the U.S. EPA and Ohio’s Environmental Enforcement Section, Norfolk Southern’s lawyers say the railroad has already spent millions of dollars in financial aid to residents and businesses and is committed to the long-term recovery of East Palestine and surrounding areas, including the remediation of areas impacted by the derailment.

The civil lawsuit was filed on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking recovery of response costs to the Feb 3 derailment and cleanup, alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act covering the discharge of pollutants and oil into local waterways.

The U.S. claims the derailment led to the combustion of the hazardous materials carried on the train and their subsequent release into the air, soil, groundwater, and waterways.

In response to the U.S. EPA lawsuit, the railroad denies that hazardous materials were released into the region’s groundwater.

Norfolk Southern also took on the government’s criticism of the railroad’s use of performance metrics, denying that eighty percent of the compensation for its executives is based on those metrics, and further denying the government’s allegation that increases in operating income and a drop in railroad operating costs are linked to reductions in spending to repair, service, and maintain locomotives and freight cars, perform train inspections, and pay engine crews and train crews.

Norfolk Southern also denies responsibility for discharging pollution into nearby waterways, saying it should not be liable for all of what the government has spent responding to the derailment, as well as injunctive relief and civil penalties that could exceed $64,618 per day for each violation.

Ohio Attorney General Yost alleges that the derailment of 39 cars caused the release of more than 1 million gallons of toxic chemicals into the environment including waterways like Sulfur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River.

Yost called the derailment avoidable.

Responding to the Ohio complaint, Norfolk Southern denied direct involvement in lobbying against environmental or railroad safety regulations, policies, and procedures, as well as controlling the emergency response to the derailment and the release of hazardous wastes at the derailment site.

Railroad attorneys also took issue with the state alleging that over the last ten years, Norfolk Southern’s accident rate increased by 80 percent and at least twenty Norfolk Southern derailments since 2015 have involved chemical releases.

Norfolk Southern also denied Ohio’s allegation that the rail carrier has recently had numerous derailments involving faulty wheel bearings.

While admitting that some substances from the derailed cars were released into a creek known as Sulphur Run, the railroad says whether the released materials were hazardous “is a legal conclusion”.

The railroad is asking for a jury trial in the cases that have been consolidated by U.S. District Judge John Adams.