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Higgins Says Tonawanda Coke’s Brash Assault on Western New Yorkers Must End

Aug 31, 2018
Press Release
Congressman Calls for “No Leniency” As Company Prepares to Answer to Federal & State Agencies

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling for federal and state agencies to put a stop to Tonawanda Coke, a company that has, for years, exhibited a blatant disregard for the health and safety of its employees and local neighbors and continues to be an unscrupulous business generating lasting negative impacts on Western New York air quality and the environment. 

In response to recent reports of violations, Higgins sent a letter to the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency and the NYSDEC on July 31, 2018.  In the letter Higgins writes, “Tonawanda Coke has plainly, clearly, openly and egregiously violated the terms of the Consent Decree which had resolved their 2016 Clean Air Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act case. I write today to advocate that within the latitude afforded to you in your roles as enforcers of federal and state environmental laws and regulations, that you show this repeat offender no leniency whatsoever, and that you use every resource available to you to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”  

On July 20, 2018 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a “Cease and Desist, Notice of Violation, Notice of Intent to Revoke” to Tonawanda Coke.  In the DEC letter they cite the “company’s seeming disregard for environmental laws, rules and regulations” and go on to say that Tonawanda Coke “operations show a blatant disregard for the environment and the health and welfare of the surrounding community.”  The DEC filed additional notices of violation on August 24, 2018. Tonawanda Coke will answer these charges at a hearing before the DEC on October 10, 2018. 

On July 23, 2018 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter citing violations of the consent decree agreed to in the previous DOJ case against Tonawanda Coke requiring the company to comply with national emission standards.  Tonawanda Coke will appear in Buffalo federal court on September 4, 2018 related to these alleged violations. 

In March of 2013, Tonawanda Coke was found guilty of 11 counts of violating the Clean Air Act and 3 counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.  For years, residents had expressed concerns about improper environmental controls at Tonawanda Coke leading to air quality issues and potentially health problems.  Tonawanda Coke’s violations are linked to the release of benzene, which is a known carcinogen.  A verdict in the case was reached in March of 2014, a year later.  In 2015, a settlement agreement included a $12.5 million fine and a federal order for a 10-year, $11 million study into the health of Tonawanda and Grand Island residents exposed to chemicals from the plant. 

Congressman Higgins has joined outspoken community advocate Jackie James-Creedon and other residents repeatedly over the last several years to champion efforts to hold Tonawanda Coke responsible for negligence and harm to community:

April 2, 2013: Higgins Calls for Tonawanda Coke Fines to Stay in Western New York

February 3, 2014:  Higgins Wants Answers on Tonawanda Coke Explosion

March 19, 2014:  Higgins Credits Community with Tonawanda Coke Verdict

July 31, 2014: Statement by Congressman Higgins in Response to OSHA Fines Following Tonawanda Coke Explosion 

May 11, 2015: Statement by Congressman Higgins As Federal & State Governments Reach Legal Agreement with Tonawanda Coke