Tonawanda Coke settles environmental issues with state and federal regulators

Under a settlement with the United States and the state of New York, Tonawanda Coke Corp. will pay $2.75 million in civil penalties, spend approximately $7.9 million to reduce air pollution and enhance air and water quality, and spend an additional $1.3 million for environmental projects in the area of Tonawanda, New York.

The agreement was announced jointly on May 11 by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck, U.S. Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens and New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The company facility bakes coal into coke, which is basically a purified form of carbon.

Under the consent decree lodged May 11 in federal court in the Western District of New York, Tonawanda Coke must improve its processes, operations and monitoring for coke oven gas leaks, assess key equipment, repair or replace equipment, install new pollution controls, and take many additional measures under a prescribed schedule. This work, estimated to cost approximately $7.9 million, will secure significant reductions of benzene, ammonia and particulate matter emissions from the plant, improving air quality in Tonawanda and protecting public health.

The settlement also requires Tonawanda Coke to pay a $1.75 million civil penalty to the United States to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act, and pay a $1 million civil penalty to the State of New York, which is a co-plaintiff with the U.S. In addition to the state penalty, Tonawanda Coke will pay another $1 million to fund projects that will benefit the environment and the residents of Tonawanda. Additionally, $357,000 will be provided to Ducks Unlimited, a not for profit organization, to acquire and preserve wetlands. In addition to protecting and enhancing water quality, wetlands reduce flooding, filter pollutants, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

“Tonawanda Coke has been an environmental outlaw for too long,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “Today’s legal settlement will provide greater public health protections for the people of Western New York. I particularly want to thank the residents of Tonawanda, their elected officials, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Citizen Science Community Resources who all shined a spotlight on these pollution problems.”

“The community that is home to the Tonawanda facility is finally receiving the protections it deserves from its neighbor,” said John C. Cruden, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement holds Tonawanda accountable for its numerous violations of federal and state environmental laws, and requires measures to achieve significant reductions in air and water pollution that will benefit Tonawanda residents for years to come.”

Under the terms of the settlement, Tonawanda Coke is currently installing coke oven battery pollution controls to limit coke oven gas emissions. These controls are known as “pushing controls,” and are estimated to reduce particulate matter by up to 162 tons per year once fully operational. Among the actions that Tonawanda Coke is required to take are:

  • Repair or replace equipment in the by-products area
  • Install and operate pushing controls at the coke oven battery by the end of 2015
  • Install a continuous monitoring system on the battery stack
  • Comply with the particulate emission limits at the bag house stack
  • Improve coke battery work practices, operations and maintenance
  • Expand and improve the facility’s leak detection and repair program
  • Adopt a plan to control dust that is generated by its operations at the facility and reduce particulate emissions
  • Undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a third-party to assess its furnace coke production, coke oven walls and other key elements

The proposed consent decree was filed in federal court in the Western District of New York and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period following its publication in the Federal Register.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.