Key DEP Witness Says Erie Coke Needs Backup Device
A hearing will continue on Thursday to determine if Erie Coke can remain open after numerous air pollution violations. The hearing came about after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), on July 1, denied Erie's Coke's operating permit.
The fifth day of testimony ended early this afternoon as the DEP is explaining the reasons why it denied Erie Coke's operating permit.
The day's testimony began with the cross examination of DEP Air Quality Specialist Dan Brophy. A day earlier on the stand, Brophy explained the air pollution violations he saw during his inspections of the plant that occurred as recently as May and June.
Brophy's testimony is very important to the DEP's case, so the cross-examination by Erie Coke Attorney Max Zygmont lasted over two hours. Zygmont questioned every aspect of Brophy's investigations, including whether the violations were legitimate and if any pollution traveled off the Erie Coke property.
When Brophy stepped off the witness stand, DEP attorneys called another of their key witnesses.
Eric Gustafson is the regional air quality program manager for the DEP. He is the person who denied Erie Coke's renewal for its operating permit.
Gustafson cited repetitive violations that have not been resolved as one reason for the denial. He also cited, what he called an "overwhelming number of complaints" the agency received concerning the plant.
Gustafson explained to Judge Steven Beckman that Erie Coke needs a backup piece of equipment called an absorber, which deals with the abatement of hydrogen sulfide. According to Gustafson, every time Erie Coke's absorber is taken offline, there is a pollution violation at the plant. He said Erie Coke would not receive the renewal of its operating permit without that backup device.
All the testimony at this hearing is important because many people are tired of the soot and smells coming from the plant and are worried about their health. On the other hand, 137 employees would lose their jobs if Erie Coke would be forced to close.
The judge's schedule does not permit testimony tomorrow. Gustafson will continue his time on the stand Thursday morning. It is hoped the case will wrap up Thursday afternoon.