September 24, 2023

Norfolk Southern has raised another $1.1 million in cash donations to East Palestine, Ohio, as the community recovers from a train derailment that sparked a fire and released dangerous chemicals into the air and water.

The railroad company said it has donated $300,000 to the East Palestine City School District and $825,000 to the East Palestine Fire Department.

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“Today’s donation to the Village of East Palestine Elementary, Middle and High Schools and the East Palestine Fire Department brings the company’s financial commitment to East Palestine to nearly $8 million,” the company said in a statement.

The donation to the school district will help cover revenue that canceled athletic events after the February 3 derailment forced residents to flee their homes.

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According to the Norfolk Southern NSC, athletic teams from neighboring cities canceled games scheduled to be hosted by East Palestine.
statement. East Palestine is a city of about 5,000 people near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

$825,000 for the fire department to reimburse the agency for equipment used in response to the derailment. The school district and fire department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Some East Palestine locals have turned to GoFundMe for help. A man who says he is the father of an East Palestine High School senior trying to raise $15,000 partly to recoup losses from school-related fundraising events that were canceled after the derailment. Normally those fundraisers would have helped pay for student activities like end-of-season banquets and prom, according to the GoFundMe page.

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“I’m asking for your donations today to give these kids hope and to continue ‘being kids’ and enjoying the events that other classes and teams have done in the past,” the page states.

Norfolk Southern’s latest donations come as the National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report saying there is no indication the train operators did anything wrong to lead to the derailment. The Associated Press reported,

East Palestine this week hosted visits from former president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Trump slammed the Biden administration’s response to the disaster, and so did East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway.

The Associated Press reported that NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy criticized the political controversies surrounding the disaster. “Enough with politics. I don’t understand why this has become so political, Homendy said at a briefing in Washington, D.C. “This is a community that is suffering. It’s not about politics. It’s about addressing their needs, their concerns.” is about to.

Homendy said his agency had spoken to residents whose health has been negatively impacted, whose pets have died, and who have seen their homes and businesses damaged.

In addition to the $1,125,000 donation announced this week, Norfolk Southern has distributed more than $4.9 million in direct payments to more than 3,000 local families, and established a $1 million community support fund. The company has also appointed a “community liaison”—a Norfolk Southern employee who will be stationed in East Palestine for the next year and oversee a $1 million budget for community needs and improvements.

Some observers have criticized the size of Norfolk Southern’s financial response to the disaster. The company spent $4 billion on stock buybacks last year.
Norfolk Southern shed nearly $6.68 billion in market capitalization between February 3 and February 23, with its stock down 11.2% during that period, while the S&P 500 SPX,
slipped 3.0% in the same time.

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Tommy Kilgore contributed to this story.