Erie Coke: How Tonawanda Residents Battled a Coke Plant
A citizens group in Erie are attempting to urge Erie Coke to stop polluting the air. They are demanding the company clean up its act or shut down.
The local group is following in the footsteps of a group of citizens in Tonawanda, NY who took on a sister plant of Erie Coke. It was a long battle.
In 2009, the citizens group convinced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate Tonawanda Coke. The investigation eventually led to the company being found guilty in federal court of violating federal clean air regulations. Mark Kamholz, the plant's environmental manager, was also found guilty of hiding deficiencies from regulators. The company was fined $12.5 million and Kamholz was sentenced to a year in jail. The sentence was handed down in 2013. But the plant was put on probation and remained open. The pollution still continued for a few more years.
In July of last year, New York State issued a Cease and Desist order demanding Tonawanda Coke abide by its operating permit. The company decided to not fight back anymore. They declared bankruptcy and closed in October.
Tonawanda's advice to the citizens battling Erie Coke....
"Don't give up, Don't give up. The grass roots voices are the loudest. And definitely get your state elected officials involved because they're the ones who can put the pressure on."