History of Erie Coke Pollution

Ownership

Erie Coke Corporation (Erie Coke) began operation in Erie in 1833, when the then Jarvis Company built its first blast furnace.

  • J.D. Crane purchased the Tonawanda plant in 1978, beginning its run as Tonawanda Coke Corp.
  • J.D. Crane purchased the Erie plant in 1987, beginning its run as Erie Coke Corp. Crane died in 2014. His grandson, Paul A. Saffrin, has taken over.
  • “Tonawanda company with an environmental record that a federal judge once described as “singularly inexcusable.” “Tonawanda Coke, which was fined $12.5 million after being found guilty in 2014 of criminal charges in connection with illegal release of pollutants at its River Road facility.”
  • 7/20/18 State orders Tonawanda Coke shut down after ‘egregiousviolations:”A cease-and-desist letter from NY Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos: “In response to repeated violations and ongoing concerns about air pollution, I have demanded that Tonawanda Coke Corporation immediately cease and desist all operations associated with violations at this facility to prevent potential harm to its workers, surrounding community, and the environment and have commenced revocation of the facility’s air permits, Seggos said in a statement released Friday. inspection of the facility Thursday found persistent and repeated violations of the plant’s DEC permit.”

Violations

  • Erie Coke has a dismal environmental record including (sampling):
      • DEP is presently engaged in on-going enforcement actions (July 2, 2018, May 16, 2018, etc.) and is presently welcoming citizen complaints to help track and assess
      • Federal search warrant in April 2017 by Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal
        Investigations Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection
      • Consent decree in which Erie Coke agreed to pay $500,000 in fines over the emission of
        benzene, a known carcinogen, at the plant.
      • $300,000 under a 2011 consent decree
      • $4 million fine under a 2010 decree
      • In May of 2010, the DEP “ordered Erie Coke Corp. and company CEO J.D. Crane to cease
        operations within 72 hours after [the DEP] revoked the facility’s air permit for violating state
        environmental laws,” according to GANTNews, a CNN affiliate.

DEP indicates the company is putting a lot of money into improving the facility, all the while violations continue.
See DEP’s full list of violations on their website. 

Tonawanda Coke

July 24, 2018
Residents air concerns after Tonawanda Coke is cited with ‘egregious’ violations
The agency charged Tonawanda Coke with violating state air quality permits nearly 120 times between May 18 and July 6 by releasing emissions above regulatory standards for opacity. The environmental violations were among some 176 lodged against the 101-year-old River Road coking plant, some of which DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos called “egregious.”… “Looking across the river and seeing the coke plant continuously spewing out large amounts of particulate black matter over the whole Tonawanda School District, it’s actually horrifying,” she said.

July 20, 2018
State orders Tonawanda Coke shut down after ‘egregious violations’
State Sen. Chris Jacobs issued a statement in response to the DEC action. “I’m not aware of any other time that DEC has ordered a major company like this to cease operating, because if they don’t have a Title V permit, they’re not allowed to operate their coke ovens,” Borncamp said….”I have heard from many Town of Tonawanda families who have been affected by Tonawanda Coke’s irresponsible actions, refusal to comply with consent decrees and insistence on ignoring health and safety requirements to protect surrounding neighborhoods, as well as their own employees,” Jacobs said. “Tonawanda Coke’s reckless behavior and willful neglect of the law cannot be tolerated.” In its cease-and-desist order, the DEC stated it found both the condition of the Tonawanda Coke’s facility and the company’s “seeming disregard for environmental laws, rules and regulations as well as numerous enforcement actions and the impacts unacceptable.” The order added that the company’s operations “show a blatant disregard for the environment and the health and welfare of the surrounding community.”

PA DEP Erie Coke partial history of violations

Erie Coke Corporation (Erie Coke) began operation in Erie in 1833, when the then Jarvis Company built its first blast furnace. During the years, owners and names have changed until it was acquired in began operations. It’s now known as Erie Coke. To ease the review of public records, the Department of Environmental Protection is providing the last two years of inspection reports and notices of violation along with the most recent enforcement documents.

June. 18, 2018
Citizens group plays role in Erie Coke permit application
The creation of this stakeholders group is part of a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection plan that Erie Coke must follow to receive a new Title V operating permit. Erie Coke’s last expired in February but it is allowed to operate because it applied for a new one before the expiration date. Erie Coke, located at the foot of East Avenue, is situated in what the DEP has labeled an environmental justice area because of the number of low-income and minority residents living nearby

April 18, 2017
Search warrant served at Erie Coke Corp.
Federal authorities served a search warrant Tuesday at Erie Coke Corp., an Erie manufacturer with a history of emission problems. The agencies that served the warrant — the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigations Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection — had little to say publicly about the matter. The search warrant comes four months after a federal judge approved a consent decree in which Erie Coke agreed to pay $500,000 in fines over the emission of benzene, a known carcinogen, at the plant. Erie Coke was not required to admit liability as part of the agreement. The agreement ended an EPA lawsuit that claimed Erie Coke failed to identify and minimize benzene leaks since November 2010, violating the Clean Air Act. The claims were based on environmental inspections at the plant in November 2010 and March 2015. Erie Coke has paid fines under previous consent decrees, including a $4 million fine under a 2010 decree. The manufacturer also made about $15 million in improvements to the facility. That settlement was reached under a threat by state regulators to seek an order to close the plant. Erie Coke also paid $300,000 under a 2011 consent decree. The earlier decrees both ended in mid-2015.

March 1, 2017
Clearing the Air The dark cloud cast by Erie Coke Corporation
The choice between a jobs-providing corporation and clean air is typically painted in black and white by politicians who are owned in part by the companies they defend. But in reality, the choice is more gray, like the noxious cloud many witnessed over Erie Coke in March of 2010. No one should have to see such a sight again. And certainly, no city should suffer the misdeeds of a corporation found perpetually negligent, which has seemingly decided that the health and vitality of its surrounding community is less important than turning a profit. It’s time to clear the air, Erie.
Katie Chriest can be contacted at: [email protected]

Nov. 14, 2016
Health study begins on Erie Coke’s ‘sister’ plant
The $11.4 million public health study will be paid for by Tonawanda Coke as part of federal order after the company was convicted in 2013 of violating the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company was also fined $12.5 million and placed on five years’ probation…The study could be of interest to residents of northwestern Pennsylvania because the same company owns and operates both the Tonawanda Coke plant and the Erie Coke plant at the foot of East Avenue. Both plants have been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for the emission of benzene, a known carcinogen.

Nov. 1, 2016
Daemen College receives $1 million gift from Tonawanda Coke executive
A $1 million gift to Daemen College to promote environmental sustainability efforts comes from the chief executive officer of a Tonawanda company with an environmental record that a federal judge once described as “singularly inexcusable.” College officials on Tuesday announced the gift — the largest private donation in the college’s history — from Paul A. Saffrin, CEO of Tonawanda Coke Corp. and president of Vanocur Refractories, an affiliated company…Saffrin said in a telephone interview that the gift was not connected to his position at Tonawanda Coke, which was fined $12.5 million after being found guilty in 2014 of criminal charges in connection with illegal release of pollutants at its River Road facility. Saffrin took over the company when his grandfather, J.D. Crane, stepped down in 2014. Crane had owned the coke manufacturing plant since 1978. Neither Crane nor Saffrin was personally charged in the case.

Oct. 14, 2016
Health study begins on Erie Coke’s ‘sister’ plant
The $11.4 million public health study will be paid for by Tonawanda Coke as part of federal order after the company was convicted in 2013 of violating the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The company was also fined $12.5 million and placed on five years’ probation…The study could be of interest to residents of northwestern Pennsylvania because the same company owns and operates both the Tonawanda Coke plant and the Erie Coke plant at the foot of East Avenue. Both plants have been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for the emission of benzene, a known carcinogen.

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