EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of the headline on this story gave an incorrect date for the filing deadline.  The correct date is August 22, 2024.

A federal judge has granted preliminary approval of the $600 million settlement that Norfolk Southern Railway agreed to pay to resolve lawsuits arising from the February 3, 2023, fiery derailment, and chemical spill in East Palestine.

 U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson issued a preliminary finding on Tuesday, saying that the proposed agreement satisfies the requirements for a class-action settlement, which paves the way for notifying residents and processing their claims for the available funds.

Calling the settlement agreement “fair, reasonable, and adequate, entered into in good faith, and free from collusion,” Judge Pearson wrote that it “outweighs the substantial costs, delay, and risks presented by further prosecution of issues during pre-trial, trial, and possible appeal.”

The judge has scheduled a final approval hearing on September 25, 2024, at 10:00 a.m.

 Attorneys representing those who claim damages from the derailment said in a news release that Judge Pearson’s ruling allows the claims process to get underway.

Lawyers say they plan to be in the community several times over the coming weeks and months to answer questions and assist people with their claims.

Kroll Settlement Administration, described by attorneys as a neutral third-party administrator, will notify those who qualify for part of the settlement, which includes anyone who lived, worked, or owned a business within 20 miles of the train derailment site after February 3, 2023.

 Later this month, Kroll will send emails and letters to those who qualify informing them of the settlement and the claims process and create a settlement website with information about the agreement.

In addition, settlement information will be advertised in newspapers, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh TV stations and posted online and via social media.

The claims assistance center will be located at the former site of the Norfolk Southern Family Assistance Center at 191 East Rebecca Street in East Palestine. It will be open starting on the first business day after notices are mailed out.

The center's hours will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 8:30 am to 5 pm, Wednesdays from 10:30 am to 7 pm, and Fridays from 8:30 am to 12 pm.

 The deadline to file a claim will be on August 22, 2024.

Judge Pearson's order may be read below: