Published:June 17 2010
Owner of Erie Coke plant pays environmental fines
The Buffalo owner of an Erie, Pa., coke plant paid a $6 million fine
Thursday for environmental violations there and agreed to comply with
environmental laws and regulations, raising hopes a similar pact can be
reached for the owner's Tonawanda Coke plant.
The agreement legally binds Erie Coke and owner J.D. Crane to resolve
past air-quality violations, according to the Pennsylvania Department
of Environmental Protection. The settlement's timetable of improvements
includes rebuilding 27 of 58 coke ovens within three years that
Pennsylvania investigators found to be cracked and emitting pollutants.
Locally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation on
Thursday cited Tonawanda Coke for a series of air-quality violations
punishable by a civil penalty up to $15,000, along with an additional
penalty up to $15,000 for each day a violation continues.
For Tonawanda Coke, these were the latest in a series of
environmental violations cited by state and federal agencies over the
past 10 months.
"I'm so excited for the community down in Erie, which now has a
guarantee that the air they breathe will be cleaner," said Erin Heaney,
executive director of the Clean Air Coalition of WNY, which has led an
effort to force Tonawanda Coke to comply with state and federal
"I think it's also exciting for folks in Tonawanda and elsewhere in
Western New York because it shows that when there is coordination and
concerted pressure put on Crane, he will do what he is told, and it
doesn't mean we have to lose jobs."
A Crane representative declined to comment Thursday.
The Pennsylvania consent decree was developed after Pennsylvania
issued an order May 24 that revoked Erie Coke's air permit and called
for its closure within 72 hours. Erie Coke appealed the order, and an
Environmental Hearing Board judge temporarily stayed the order.
An attorney for Crane had warned at the hearing that the plant's 120
employees could lose their jobs if shuttered by state regulators.
"This consent decree will keep family-supporting jobs in Erie without
sacrificing the air we breathe," said DEP Northwest Regional Director
Kelly Burch in a statement.
"The consent decree tops four years of DEP enforcement efforts to
bring Erie Coke into compliance. The company's compliance and
cooperation is what we have sought all along."
Last month, Burch said inspectors had found "a pattern of defiant
behavior and complete disregard for the health of our citizens, and the
quality of our natural resources."
The settlement "confirms that no one is above the law," said DEP
Secretary John Hanger. said and will come at considerable expense to the
company, which He estimated cleanup costs at around $15 million.
The settlement calls on Crane and Erie Coke to:
-- Bring the coke facility into compliance with state and federal clean-air regulations.
-- Repair or replace within three months the existing emissions
control device that captures emissions from the pushing operation and
replace it within 18 months with more effective technology.
-- Complete end-flue repairs within two years to coke ovens not being rebuilt.
-- Complete a series of boiler and battery stack tests within three
months to determine emissions associated with coking operations.
The high-quality foundry coke produced by the Erie and Tonawanda
plants ... two of the four in operation in the United States ... is used
for melting metal and and removing impurities in steel manufacturing.
The complex chemical process to make coke creates toxic vapors.
Tonawanda Coke was found last year by the DEC to emit benzene, a
carcinogen, at levels up to 75 times higher than recommended guidelines.