Statement by Congressman Higgins On the Tonawanda Coke Implosion
“For years Tonawanda Coke violated the law and poisoned the community in which it operated. The community, including Jackie James-Creedon, members of the Clean Air Coalition and other citizen champions, persisted in a relentless fight for their health, safety and justice. Today’s eight-second toppling of the Tonawanda Coke smoke stacks was built on years of courage in response to neighborhood pain and suffering. The damage caused by Tonawanda Coke’s illegal offenses can’t be erased but eliminating the stacks that so often spewed poison into the air where citizens live represents a fresh, clean beginning.”
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. Tonawanda Coke’s violations are linked to the release of benzene, which is a known carcinogen. Higgins called for the fines to stay in Western New York.
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 appeared in Buffalo federal court on September 4, 2018 related to these alleged violations. In response, Higgins sent a letter to the United Stated Environmental Protection Agency and the NYSDEC on July 31, 2018 calling for no leniency. The plant shut down in October 2018.
In 2020, the United States Environmental Protection agency announced completion of its remediation efforts and handed the site back to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.