The Chicago Journal

Norfolk Southern still won’t take accountability through compensation

Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos
Image Commercially Licensed from: DepositPhotos

Norfolk SouthernA tragic incident occurred to the inhabitants of East Palestine, Ohio, in early February.

When a Norfolk Southern train derailed, toxic chemicals were spilled into the air and neighboring water.

Residents returned with apprehension after being evacuated, but the harm had already been done.

While Norfolk Southern has helped to restore normalcy in East Palestine, many people have expressed their displeasure and unhappiness.

Jim Stewart

Jim Stewart is one of several East Palestine residents that are dissatisfied with the rail transit firm.

He was about to sell his property and retire when the Norfolk Southern train derailed and dumped hazardous materials.

Stewart is now concerned about the worth of his property.

He and his wife planned to put the house on the market in the spring, when prices were still rising and inventory was tight.

They also talked about his son’s family buying a house across the street from them.

“Since the derailment, I lost all those options,” said Stewart. “Who is going to buy contaminated land?”

“The older people are willing to stay and live it out. The younger bunch, they are smarter. They’re thinking of their families.”

“I wouldn’t want my grandchildren here. We don’t know if the ground is going to be good enough to grow grass. There are too many unknowns.”

James Stewart expressed his displeasure with the derailment during a Town Hall meeting on February 22.

“You burned me,” he told Norfolk Southern CEO, Alan Shaw.

“We were going to sell our house. Our value went phoom.”

When asked if Norfolk Southern intended to buy Stewart’s house, Shaw stated: “We’re going to do what’s right for this community.”

Jim Stewart is a manager of a commercial baking company.

“I worked hard. I’m still working,” he reportedly told Shaw. “I’m in the 44th year at my job. I wanted to get out. Now I’m just stuck.”

The home was valued $85,000 when Stewart acquired it in 2016.

He feels the event has cost him a substantial sum of money.

According to Zillow, the property was evaluated for $135,000 in February, but a current assessment is tough to come up with owing to a scarcity of transactions.

“I’ll never get that. I’ll be lucky to get what I paid for it, if that,” Stewart said regarding the estimate.

He also feels that the renovations and testing required to assure the safety of the house would be too expensive.

Read also: East Palestine is GOP’s next investigation

Senate hearing

Several individuals, including Jim Stewart, have been let down by Alan Shaw and Norfolk Southern.

Neither the CEO nor the company has agreed to make up the difference in the value of the property.

Sen. Ed Markey asked Shaw four times during last Thursday’s Senate session to commit to compensating homeowners.

Shaw, on the other hand, just expressed his dissatisfaction by saying: “Senator, I’m committed to do what’s right.”

Markey dismissed his response, saying:

“Will you commit to ensuring that these families, these innocent families do not lose their life savings in their homes and small businesses? The right thing to do is to say, ‘Yes, we will.'”

“These families want to know long term, are they just going to be left behind. Once the cameras move on, once the national attention dies down, where will these families be?”

“I think they’re going to be in the crosshairs of the accountants of Norfolk Southern saying ‘We’re not going to pay full compensation.'”


A firm the scale of Norfolk Southern finds it easy to compensate homes and businesses.

East Palestine is home to around 5,000 people and 2,600 residential buildings.

According to Attom, the average property value in January 2023 will be $146,000.

The entire value of all residential real estate in town, including single-family homes and multi-family structures, is estimated to be over $380 million.

The figures reflect a minor fraction of Norfolk Southern’s revenue.

In 2022, the corporation earned $4.8 billion in operational income and $3.3 billion in net income, a 9% increase over the previous year.

Norfolk Southern has $456 million in cash on hand as of December 31.

In 2022, the company intended to repurchase $3.1 billion in shares and pay $1.2 billion in dividends to redistribute earnings to shareholders.

Norfolk Southern declared a 9% dividend increase several days before the catastrophe.

In 2022, the company’s board of directors authorized a $10 billion share repurchase plan, with the ability to acquire $7.5 billion of the remaining funds as of December 31.

At the hearing on Thursday, Senator Jeff Merkley questioned the company:

“Will you pledge to no more stock buybacks until a raft of safety measures have been completed to reduce the risk of derailments and crashes in the future?”

Alan Shaw, on the other hand, avoided the topic entirely by replying, “I will commit to continuing to invest in safety.”

Norfolk Southern also spends a lot of money on lobbying, spending $1.8 million last year, according to

Senators raised concerns about the lobbying expenses throughout the session, especially because Shaw refused to commit to supporting the Senate’s bipartisan plan to improve railway safety in the aftermath of the disaster.

Alan Shaw declined to support the bill’s provisions when questioned.

Instead, he answered: “We are committed to the legislative intent to make rail safer.”