Friday 28 July 2023

Norfolk Southern Says Cost Of East Palestine Derailment Has Doubled As Chemical Cleanup Continues

 Rail company Norfolk Southern doubled its estimate on the cost of the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment disaster, now saying the associated costs will be $803 million. 

Executives said the majority of the cost is from the environmental cleanup as crews continue to work to remove the hazardous chemicals released when tankers carrying them derailed six months ago, The Wall Street Journal reported. Norfolk Southern recorded a $416 million charge stemming from the East Palestine disaster Thursday as part of its second-quarter earnings. Earlier this year, the rail giant announced a $387 million charge, according to the Associated Press. 

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said he is “proud of the way our team rose to the challenge” as his company seeks to help with cleanup efforts and improve the safety of the railroad.

“We are delivering on our commitment to recover service quickly,” Shaw said. “We’re delivering on our commitment to make a safe railroad even safer. We’re delivering on our commitment to address quality of life issues for our hard-working craft railroaders. And we continue to deliver on our commitment to make things right for the people of East Palestine and the surrounding communities.”

The company’s profit from railway operations dropped by more than half in the most recent quarter compared to the previous year, and overall revenue dropped 8% to $3 billion, according to Norfolk Southern. The company’s profit dropped to $356 million ($1.56 per share) from $819 million ($3.45 per share) a year ago. Norfolk Southern estimated that without the derailment costs it would’ve earned $2.95 per share in the quarter.  

Norfolk Southern’s $803 million estimate does not include money to compensate East Palestine residents for any long-term health effects related to the chemical spill. The company opted to burn several cars filled with the dangerous chemical vinyl chloride over fears that the cars would explode. The fire sent a cloud of smoke that remained over the town of 4,700 for days. Nearly six months after the disaster, chemicals from the derailment appear to still be present in a creek as trucks continue to haul contaminated water and soil out of the town, WSJ reported


“From the beginning, we’ve been clear that we would be in town for the long haul,” said Connor Spielmaker, a Norfolk Southern spokesman. “We don’t have a timeline to provide as far as when it’ll be ‘job done,’ but we will be there until it is.”

Earlier this month, Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) asked President Joe Biden to issue a major disaster declaration order, which would allow the town to receive federal aid in the cleanup, but the Biden administration still has not made a decision. 

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