Weekly Feature

2018-08-08 / Editorial

Tonawanda Coke shutdown is best for majority

Bee Editorial

Tonawanda Coke must go. It’s a sentiment that’s been repeated by residents and Town of Tonawanda officials in recent weeks, following a cease-and-desist order that the state Department of Environmental Conservation sent to the company on July 20.

The order, authored by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, demanded that the company immediately halt ongoing violations of environmental conservation law and associated regulations at its plant in Tonawanda and indicated that the DEC was moving to revoke the company’s Title V and Air State Facility permits associated with the plant.

Tonawanda Coke Corp. had until Aug. 4 to respond to the order and did so by requesting a hearing. The company also responded in writing on the day the order was sent, arguing that it has been “diligent- ly working on a long-term solution” to issues that were caused by the collapse of the facility’s waste heat air tunnel.

The company said it was informing the DEC of its efforts and of a long-term compliance plan it would be implementing in the near future.

How long will Western New Yorkers who live downwind of the plant have to wait before harmful emissions are curbed?

During a meeting last week, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger said “the welcome mat is worn out” for Tonawanda Coke, and the DEC must do something to take action against the company’s numerous environmental violations, which reportedly total 176 since January.

In a recent column, Emminger noted that local activist Jackie James-Creedon of Citizen Science Community Resources has repeatedly said of Tonawanda Coke Corp., “We gave them a chance and we can’t trust them and we want them gone.” State Sen. Chris Jacobs and Carima El-Behairy, the endorsed Democratic candidate running against him for the 60th Senate District, have taken a similar stance.

In prepared statements, they argued that Tonawanda Coke has exhibited “willful neglect of the law” and has put profits ahead of the health and safety of its employees and the residents of Grand Island and the Tonawandas.

We agree with Emminger, James-Creedon, Jacobs and El-Behairy. Tonawanda Coke has had its chances to curb emissions, and now is the time to shut down the plant and either correct the violations once and for all or close the plant permanently. The residents of Tonawanda can’t afford to wait any longer.

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