Ohio attorney general says settlement of East Palestine lawsuit not imminent

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) said Friday that his office will not agree to a settlement with Norfolk Southern Railway without a “detailed understanding” of how a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in the town of East Palestine a year ago.

In a statement Friday, one day before the anniversary of the crash, Yost said he does not anticipate an “imminent resolution” to the 58-count federal lawsuit he filed against the railroad last year.

The suit is unlikely to be resolved before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issues its findings on the crash, Yost said. Specifically, he said, his office is awaiting details from the NTSB board on matters such as the mechanical failures that led to the derailment, the safety features of the cars containing the chemicals and the decision to conduct a controlled burn at the crash site.

“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 in a statement. “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 attorney general added that the report will likely be available in spring at the earliest and that there is no guarantee it will resolve all of his office’s questions.

No one was killed or injured in the Feb. 3, 2023, crash, but several train cars containing vinyl chloride, a toxic substance used in production of plastics, spilled into the area. The Environmental Protection Agency has invoked a federal law that requires Norfolk Southern to pay for the costs of cleanup. Yost’s lawsuit seeks to also hold the railroad responsible for the costs of soil and groundwater tests, as well as any economic and ecological harms.

In a statement to The Hill, a Norfolk Southern spokesperson said “from the very beginning, Norfolk Southern made a promise to make things right in East Palestine; one year later, we’re proud to say we’ve made significant progress toward keeping that promise,” pointing to more than $21 million disbursed directly to residents.

Updated at 12:37 p.m. ET

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