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Hold Erie Coke Accountable

The public has an opportunity to get ready to speak at the upcoming permit hearing to be held by PA DEP in late fall or early winter. Without public input the process will not yield robust results. In the meantime, the public is urged to submit complaints of smells and photos of the toxic emissions plumes directly to PA DEP

Call, emails, photos should be sent to:

Northwest Service Representative, PA Department of Environmental Protection
Kim Yeakle (814) 332-6839 | kyeakle@pa.gov
230 Chestnut Street, Meadville, PA 16335-3481
State Wide Toll-Free Number 1-866-255-5158

The link below is for e-mailing a complaint about an environmental problem to the regional DEP Service Representative. Complainants will receive an e-mail* acknowledgment that the complaint has been received and referred for action. DEP staff will provide information on the status of the investigation by telephone or in writing.

Contact regional DEP Service Representative

History of Pollution Violations

Erie Coke and its sister plant in Buffalo (Tonawanda Coke) have a long history of violations and penalties which a federal judge once described as “singularly inexcusable.” The Buffalo coke plant was just ordered by New York state to cease operations due to its flagrant disregard for air pollution law.

Expired Permit

Erie Coke’s Title V Operating Permit is up for renewal and is currently operating under their old permit as PA DEP reviews their re-permit application and prepares a public engagement and comment process as part of the formal review.

Moment of Opportunity

The permit renewal process has been relegated to Enhanced Public Participation as the facility is located in an Environmental Justice Community. This special Environmental Justice review process is due to community concerns regarding the impact of operations at Erie Coke on neighboring communities and environment.
DEP has committed to the community that a public meeting and hearing will be held as part of the permit renewal process. The timeline has not been indicated other than late fall/early winter 2019. Experience shows that if the public is not vocal during the upcoming public hearing about the Title V permit, (and does not also routinely report complaints), the opportunity for interventions will not be as robust.

What is important of Title V Operating Permits?

A Title V is like a snapshot that includes all emissions limits and standards to which the source is subject, as well as all operating, monitoring, and reporting requirements that apply at the time of the permit’s issuance.

By including all the requirements in one document, Title V Operating Permits help source operators comply with such requirements.

A Title V permit requires plants to monitor and submit reports showing that they are actually meeting their various limits – regardless of the monitoring and reporting requirements of the underlying permits. So in that way, Title V is very powerful. Otherwise, the public and regulators can’t be sure that polluters are actually complying with their pollution limits.

How does Erie Coke contribute to air pollution to Erie's air?

– They emit: S02; C0; N0X; H2S; PM2.5; Hazardous Air Pollutants like benzene, toluene, xylene; and metals.

– Erie Coke was the top emitter of ammonia, benzene, nitrogen oxides, PM2.5, and sulfur oxides in Erie County in 2017.

– Unlike the smoke stack of a power plant, there are many sources of air pollution at a coke-plant including the combustion stack, quench tower, fugitive leaks from coke oven doors/sheds, stand pipes, etc.

– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies coke oven emissions as among the most toxic of all air pollutants – classifying it as a carcinogen. Some of the pollutants from coke plants can cause leukemia and other cancers, respiratory ailments, problems with the central nervous system, strokes and premature death.

– Malodors will drive away residents, investors, hotel stays, home and condo purchases, employees, etc.

– Detriment to Erie’s image as a place of choice both from quality of life standpoint as well as civic ability to address core issues that hold back its progress.

(Visitors and newcomers to Erie are much more sensitive to the coke plant odors as they have not become accustomed to such.)

– EC emissions pose a significant threat to public health cause for concerns for increased risk of heart and lung disease, asthma, diabetes, cancer and premature death.

– Asthma, cardiovascular disease and stroke can be aggravated by short-term exposure to particulate pollution.

– Suspected carcinogens in air pollution are associated with lung cancer, bladder cancer and childhood leukemia.

– Air pollution may be the cause of neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectral) and neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, ALS, Alzheimer’s), which have increased at alarming rates in recent decades.

– Low birth weight and developmental effects in babies are linked to chronic exposures to toxic air pollutants and particulate matter.

– Fine particulate matter may alter metabolism in genetically susceptible populations, leading to higher body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

Informal DEP Stakeholder Group

The Stakeholder Group is informal, not fully representative, and is not part of the formal expected public process, that the PA DEP is obliged to implement.

Isn't our air much better?

Chiefly due to industrial decline, Erie’s air is cleaner. However, less bad is not good enough and is not what is required in today’s economy in order to compete for investment, talent, and the basics of quality of life which is the new capital of competitiveness. Erie Coke, in operation since 1833, continues to be under enforcement action for its pollution violations and malodors subjected on Erie.

Unfair Advantage

EC’s getting away with polluting the city is like a tax subsidy from the public and it’s unfair to all the responsible corporations in our community that take responsibility for their impacts.

Sister Coke Facility

In Tonawanda, the community is organized and has achieved the allocation of fines against Tonawanda to pay for a major health impact study. Not so much here.

The NY Dept. of Environ. Conservation has just issued a shutdown order on Tonawanda due to their continuing pollution violations.

Multiple Impacts of Pollution

While the ill-health and social in-equities are bad enough, the additional reality is that the constant visual of the back emission plume from EC is a statement written in the sky that risks sending a message that our community does not adequately stand up for itself and could be caught in “growth at any cost” economic philosophies of yesteryear. The new economy assures that quality of life comes first, then followed by prosperity. EC’s pollution is no longer the smell of money but rather the smell of economic detriment.

The smells and toxic emissions plumes are not consistent with Erie’s new resolve to be a 21st century place of choice to live, work, and play

Abide by the law

The community is simply demanding that Erie Coke abide by the law and be a good corporate citizen and also for our state and federal government to be as robust as NY has proven to be relative to Tonawanda Coke which is owned by the same company. The state and federal government will determine if Erie Coke brings on a cease and desist order as is the case with its sister facility, Tonawanda Coke. To date, both’s records of violations has been deplorable.

Air Quality Standards

Air pollution threshold standards to determine compliance are not health protective and instead reflect a development process involving many interests. Other standards worldwide offer better threshold standards that protect health, such as those of the World Health Organization.

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