UPDATED: PA DEP’s Northwest Regional Office Issues Administrative Order to Erie Coke Corp.

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UPDATE: Erie Coke Works on March 7 filed an appeal to DEP’s Feb. 14 order.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Northwest Regional office on Feb. 4 issued an administrative order to Erie Coke Corp. (ECC) demanding it take action to correct air quality violations believed to be “ongoing and continuous” during the previous 18 months.

The order lists 59 regulatory violations Erie Coke committed between June 3, 2017 and Oct. 11, 2018. These violations included exceedances of opacity limits for emissions from the coke ovens, illegally bypassing required hydrogen sulfide absorption equipment, and violating quarterly continuous monitoring standards, among others.

It appears that Erie Coke had a chance to avoid the order but was unable to address the issues to DEP’s satisfaction. DEP officials—including Regional Manager Eric Gustafson—met with representatives from Erie Coke Nov. 8 to discuss the violations. Those company representatives included Paul Saffrin and plant supervisor Anthony Nearhoof.

DEP meeting minutes from the gathering indicate that the department “hand-delivered a compliance review notification to ECC requesting them to determine what they want to do and how they will proceed.”

On Dec. 21, Erie Coke’s attorney(s) responded to this meeting with a letter, although the Feb. 4 order noted this correspondence contained only a “general outline of a compliance plan and no schedule for implementation.”

The order can still be appealed by Erie Coke, which has previously run afoul of air quality regulations. In 2010, DEP and the company entered into a Consent Decree to settle a series of violations that went unaddressed from 2008 to 2010.

That agreement included a $6 million fine and required Erie Coke to complete a floor-up rebuild of all of the 23 coke ovens in the A-Battery. The company satisfied the terms of the agreement in 2015, but then the EPA filed an enforcement action against it for numerous violations related to leaks of benzene from the facility’s coke by-products area in 2016.

GASP became involved with this issue late last year after newly formed group Hold Erie Coke Accountable asked us to assist them in preparing comments on Erie Coke’s Title V operating permit, which is up for renewal.

As many GASP supporters know, we have an unfortunate familiarity with the myriad pollution issues caused by coke facilities and were happy to help. Although DEP’s administrative order might put the Title V permit on hold for a while, GASP is committed to assisting and supporting our northern allies in their fight to clean up their air.

We sincerely appreciate the funding we’ve received from several local community members that makes it possible for GASP to get involved.

 

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