Air quality testing near the Erie Coke plant was explained Monday night by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  

The meeting was for a group of citizens the DEP calls "stakeholders."  It was the first meeting the DEP has had with the stakeholders for well over a year.

Three different entities were all in one room.  Each entity will be affected by the future decision of a judge from the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board who must decide if Erie Coke can remain open after numerous air pollution violations.

The judge's decision will not be handed down until after August 7, but representatives from the DEP, Erie Coke, and the community still gathered together in a room to discuss how all three can work together.

"The community is the real winner here.  They've got the DEP answering their questions.  They've got Erie Coke answering their questions.  Just being transparent on both ends is just positive for the community,” said Tom Decker, DEP Community Relations Coordinator.

The stakeholders from the community include citizens who live near the Erie Coke plant, the heads of non-profit organizations near the plant, and local environmentalists.  Ed Nesselbeck, Erie Coke’s Environmental Director, is glad to talk to them.

"Erie Coke has existed behind a mysterious shroud of secrecy for way too long,” he said.

Nesselbeck has been with Erie Coke only since February and is putting an end to its policy of not communicating with the media and the public.

"I'm looking forward to getting out in the community and being more forthright with everything going on there.  I love a program like this,” Nesselbeck said.

Erie Activist Gary Horton is pleased with the progress in communication.  He hopes it spreads to companies beyond Erie Coke.

"We see Erie Coke as the tip of the iceberg and not the iceberg itself.  We have a larger issue of air quality on the east side than just Erie Coke,” he said.

More stakeholder meetings are expected to be held in the very near future.  The first results from the air quality testing will be discussed.