(Erie, PA – December 15, 2022) At the invitation of the US Attorney’s Office of Western PA, Hold Erie Coke Accountable is reaching out to the community to inform the public of their right to be informed of and participate in the federal lawsuit and possibly be compensated for hardships related to the indictment of Erie Coke.
On November 15, 2022, Erie Coke Corporation, along with the plant superintendent, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Erie on among other charges, Violation of the Clean Air Act. Now, the US Attorney’s Office of Western PA is inviting victims of Erie Coke to come forward with statements about how they have been negatively impacted.
According to the Indictment presented to the court, from in and around October 2015 and continuing until in and around December 2019, Erie Coke Corporation and personnel tampered with measurements on heating systems which emitted contaminants and pollutants into the air including volatile gases such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. Such hazardous air pollutants were released directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system. Erie Coke Corporation was a plant regulated by federal and state statutes and regulations including the Clean Air Act (CAA) administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), which was located adjacent to numerous private residences, public facilities, and several schools.
Now that charges have been filed in federal court, victims of the charges filed are entitled to a host of rights (according to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act), including:
– The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
– The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
– The right to notice of public court proceedings.
– The right to be heard at public proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, or parole.
A website has been created to aid the public in pursuit of these rights. It can be accessed at: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/vw/us-v-erie-coke-corporation. The website includes:
– Indictment as to Erie Coke Corporation and Anthony Nearhoof
– Information and Assistance for Federal Crime Victims and Witnesses
– Victim Impact Statements: Know Your Rights
– Victim Impact Statement Template
(It is further noted that independent of this legal action, the PA Crime Victims Compensation Program can pay victims back for certain types of out-of-pocket expenses for physical or emotional injuries received as a direct result of the crime. These expenses include medical bills, counseling costs, funeral bills, and lost wages. This is not the same as the above noted possibility of restitution. A crime victim can file for benefits immediately following the crime, even if no arrest has been made. For more information, contact the Crime Victims Compensation Program at 1-800-233-2339 or 717-783- 5153 in Pennsylvania.)
Hold Erie Coke Accountable encourages anyone who believes they have been negatively impacted by Erie Coke’s offenses, to complete and submit a Victim Impact Statement. The statements may assist the judge when he or she decides what sentence the Erie Coke should receive. The Victim Impact Statement is also a person’s opportunity to state a financial loss which is used to verify and assess the financial impact of the crime upon the individual. This information is used by the Judge to determine any money the Erie Coke defendants may have to pay for expenses victims have had to paid for or money a person owes because of the crime by Erie Coke. When the judge possibly orders the Erie Coke defendants defendant to pay the victim it is called “restitution.”
For example, the Victim Impact Statement includes the following questions:
– Please explain any negative health effects you (or the person you represent) experienced resulting from the exposure to a pollutant or chemical released by the defendant(s). The health impacts may be immediate and plain to see or may be less obvious or take time to develop. Please explain in as much detail as you can how the crime caused these physical impacts (such as, “my asthma was triggered each time the plant released chemicals into the air”). For example, think of: physical pain, discomfort, illness, scarring, disfigurement or physical limitation; immediate or short-term medical care; hospitalization or surgery you have had; treatment, counseling, or medication you have been prescribed; the need for any further treatment or the expectation you will receive further treatment; and/or any permanent or long term disability.
– Please describe any emotional impact this crime had you (or the person you represent). For example, think of how the crime has impacted your ability to live, learn, work, play or worship, including impacts to your lifestyle or daily activities; your mental well-being, sleeping habits, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress; your relationships with others such as your spouse, family and friends; your ability to work, attend school or study; your feelings, emotions and reactions as they relate to the crime and/or defendant(s); and/or counseling or wellness groups to assist your recovery
– Please describe any emotional impact this crime had you (or the person you represent). For example, think of how the crime has impacted your ability to live, learn, work, play or worship, including impacts to your lifestyle or daily activities; your mental well-being, sleeping habits, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress; your relationships with others such as your spouse, family and friends; your ability to work, attend school or study; your feelings, emotions and reactions as they relate to the crime and/or defendant(s); and/or counseling or wellness groups to assist your recovery.
– What would you (or the person you represent) like to see happen to the person and/or corporation who committed this crime?
– Is there anything else you would like the judge to know before sentence is imposed?
– List any financial losses you have incurred or expect to incur as a result of these crimes.
Hold Erie Coke Accountable urges anyone who believes they are a victim of Erie Coke’s abuse of the community or would just like to opt-in to receive case notifications or if they have any questions about their rights, to contact the Victim Witness Coordinator at 412-894-7400 or email at [email protected] or through their website. Additionally, if one would like to submit a victim impact statement for the Court to review in the event that one or both of the defendants are convicted, the public may submit a letter or complete the “Victim Impact Statement Template” linked below and email your statement to [email protected] or mail it to:
US Attorney’s Office – Western District of Pennsylvania
700 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Hold Erie Coke Accountable further advises the public that, aside from this matter of Erie Coke, concerns or complaints about environmental pollution can easily be submitted to the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (on-line or by phone, even anonymously). See this informative website for how-to instructions: Environmental Complaints (pa.gov) or by calling (866) 255-5158.