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Erie Coke Appeals DEP Denial of Title V Operating Permit Renewal, Calls Compliance Docket Placement “Unlawful”

Erie coke from HECA

Erie Coke Corp. on Tuesday filed an appeal of the decision by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny its application for a renewed Title V operating permit – saying the consequences “cannot be overstated.”

In court paperwork filed with the Environmental Hearing Board, Erie Coke’s legal counsel, a Pittsburgh attorney from Kazmarek Mowrey Cloud Laseter, Paul K. Stockman, wrote that denying the application would “effectively cause permanent and irrevocable closure” to the coke facility.

The appeal also alleged the DEP “willfully ignor(ed) substantial steps toward improving compliance and its cooperative approach to resolving matters.” 

The court filing also claims that Erie Coke has worked “steadfastly” to “improve and sustain” its compliance record and that regulators should understand that it’s a “time-consuming task.”

Stockman further stated that regulators should understand that “it will take months for the improvements Erie Coke has commenced to bear fruit locally.”

The court filing also reiterated the company’s opposition to DEP placing it on the compliance docket, an action that would greatly restrict Erie Coke Corp.’s ability to obtain any new or expanded state permit. The company formally appealed its placement on the compliance docket last month.

The DEP announced in a press release on Monday that it was denying the company’s application for a renewed Title V permit, and that it had filed an injunction to have the plant shut down because of what it described as “numerous repetitive environmental violations.” Specifically, the denial letter included a six-page list of violations at the facility dating back to 2015.

In a pre-tial hearing order also filed Tuesday, Environmental Hearing Board Chief Judge and Chairman Thomas W. Renwand assigned the matter to Judge Steven C. Beckman. Among other things, the order:

  • Sets a 20-day timeframe for Erie Coke Corp. to amend its appeal
  • Sets a deadline of Dec. 30 for the completion of discovery
  • Sets a deadline of Aug. 21, 2019 for Erie Coke Corp. and DEP to certify that they have conferred about a settlement
  • Sets a Jan. 28, 2020 deadline for both parties to file dispositive motions
  • Offers an alternate schedule, where Erie Coke Corp. and DEP may submit a Joint Proposed Case Order. Such an order would need to be filed within 60 days of the order

By way of background: In June alone, the DEP sent the company six notice of violation letters addressing emissions and other issues at its East Avenue facility that stretch back through October of 2018.

“GASP isn’t shocked by Tuesday’s appeal, just as Erie Coke Corp. should not be shocked by DEP’s actions,” GASP Executive Director Rachel Filippini said. “We stand behind the DEP and all the residents who have stood up against a corporation that has demonstrated for far too long that it is complacent about compliance.”

The appeal can be viewed online here.

A pre-trial hearing order also filed July 2 can be viewed online here.

Editor’s Note: Here’s some associated media coverage of today’s appeal:

GASP has been working with citizens group Hold Erie Coke Accountable (HECA). You can read more about our work with them here.

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