Erie Coke Pays $6 Million Penalty; Agrees to Upgrade Coke Ovens, Improve Facilities

Jun 17, 2010, 10:48 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Northwest Regional Office

Court to Enforce Order, Settle Air Quality Violations

MEADVILLE, Pa., June 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Environmental Protection today filed in Commonwealth Court a consent decree that legally binds Erie Coke and its owner to comply with environmental laws and regulations, which will improve the environment and air quality in the region.

Erie Coke and its CEO J.D. Crane also paid a $6 million fine upon signing the court-backed consent decree to settle air quality violations that were identified in previous orders.

"This hard-fought settlement ensures cleaner air for Erie residents and confirms that no one is above the law," said DEP Secretary John Hanger. "Facilities that are issued environmental permits must comply with those permits."

The agreement, signed by Erie Coke, its CEO J.D. Crane and DEP, requires the company and Crane to bring the coke facility into compliance with Pennsylvania's Air Pollution Control Act, the Clean Air Act, associated regulations and the facility's air permit.

The settlement will allow Erie Coke to continue operating under its current Title V air permit while the company follows a legally binding schedule of improvements and activities. Under the consent decree, Erie Coke will, among other things:

  • Repair or replace within three months the existing emissions control device (Venturi Scrubber Car) that captures emissions from the pushing operation and then, within 18 months, replace this control device with a coke shed and associated bag house.
  • Rebuild 27 of its 58 coke ovens within three years under a prescribed timetable.
  • Complete end-flue repairs within two years to those coke ovens not being rebuilt.
  • Complete a series of boiler and battery stack tests within three months to determine the emissions associated with the coking operations.
  • Submit to DEP quarterly progress reports that specifically document actions taken by Erie Coke and identify actions that Erie Coke will take within the next quarter.

"The upgrades to bring this antiquated facility into compliance will require Erie Coke and Mr. Crane to make a substantial investment," Hanger said. "Erie Coke estimates that the cost of repairs and improvements will be in the neighborhood of $15 million, but these dollars will be well spent to protect local citizens, the community and the air they breathe."

Because the repairs and improvements will take place over a period of time, the consent decree obligates Erie Coke to pay stipulated penalties, to be payable monthly, for ongoing violations.

The consent decree was developed after DEP issued on May 24 an order revoking Erie Coke's air permit and directing the company to shut down within 72 hours. The permit allowed the facility to operate legally. Erie Coke appealed the order and the Environmental Hearing Board judge stayed the May 24 order until June 18.

"This consent decree will keep family-supporting jobs in Erie without sacrificing the air we breathe," said DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch. "Today's consent decree tops four years of DEP enforcement efforts to bring Erie Coke into compliance. The company's compliance and cooperation is what we have sought all along."  

Within five days after Commonwealth Court signs the consent decree, Erie Coke and Crane are to withdraw all appeals of previous DEP orders and DEP will file a motion to dismiss the department from a joint federal action with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Of the $6 million penalty, $4 million was paid to the Clean Air Fund and $2 million will act as a bond to ensure compliance with the consent decree.

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Media contact: Freda Tarbell, (814) 332-6816

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Northwest Regional Office