MEADVILLE – On Monday the Department of Environmental Protection ordered Erie Coke Corp. and company CEO J.D. Crane to cease operations within 72 hours after it revoked the facility’s air permit for violating state environmental laws.
The department’s northwest regional director, Kelly Burch, said the department hopes the order will cause Erie Coke to make the needed repairs and reopen operations that do not pollute the air or violate the law. He added that revoking the permit, which allows the facility to operate legally, was a “last resort” action.
“We’ve tried to work with the company to correct multiple ongoing environmental violations so that it could maintain and operate a clean and safe plant that meets the letter of the law,” said Burch. “Since 2006, DEP has inspected Erie Coke’s facility numerous times. Those inspections have revealed a pattern of defiant behavior and complete disregard for the health of our citizens and the quality of our natural resources. Our inspections indicate that the coke ovens at the facility are cracked and emitting pollutants.”
Burch said the company’s failure to live up to its obligations is disappointing. DEP’s progressive enforcement approach with Erie Coke has proved successful with nearly all other permitted facilities facing similar issues.
“Only Erie Coke is responsible for the action we’re taking today,” said Burch. “Under the direction of Mr. Crane, the company has demonstrated a lack of intent or desire to take the corrective actions needed to bring his operations into compliance and protect our environment. Their failure to act made our order unavoidable.”
Upon receipt of the order, Erie Coke is to cease all coke oven charging operations immediately and remove all remaining coke from the coke oven battery through normal pushing operations within 48 hours. All boiler operations and emissions must cease within 72 hours of receiving the order.
Today’s order replaces previous orders DEP issued on June 23, 2008 and Jan. 20, 2009.
In 2008, DEP issued an order and assessed a $6.1 million penalty for emissions violations, which Erie Coke appealed to the Environmental Hearing Board. The company did not fully comply with the order nor did it pay the penalty.
In 2009, DEP ordered Erie Coke to test completely and accurately all emissions from both of the coke oven batteries. Emissions from one of the batteries had not been part of previous testing. Erie Coke and Crane appealed the 2009 order and have not fully complied with it.
The 58 coke ovens that Erie Coke operates at the facility were installed in the 1940s and 1950s.