Thursday, November 17, 2022

U.S. Dept. Of Justice Indicts Erie Coke (Coal) And Corporate Officer For Violating Federal Clean Air Act Over 4 Years

On November 17, Erie Coke Corporation, along with a corporate officer, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Erie on among other charges, Violation of the Clean Air Act, United States Attorney Cindy K. Chung announced today.

The eight-count Indictment, returned on Nov. 15, 2022, and unsealed today, named Erie Coke Corporation, now permanently out of operation, and Anthony Nearhoof, 41, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the defendants.

According to the Indictment presented to the court, from in and around October 2015 and continuing until in and around December 2019, Erie Coke Corporation and Nearhoof tampered with measurements on heating systems which emitted contaminants and pollutants into the air including volatile gases such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. 

Erie Coke Corporation was a plant regulated by federal and state statutes and regulations including the Clean Air Act (CAA) administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), which was located adjacent to numerous private residences, public facilities, and several schools.

Nearhoof was an operator and “responsible corporate officer” at the plant when hazardous air pollutants were being released and directed other plant supervisors and foremen to vent combustion gases directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system.

“It is important to protect our community from environmental health hazards and to ensure equal access to a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work,” said U.S. Attorney Chung. “This indictment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to securing environmental justice by holding Erie Coke Corporation and its management responsible for violations of laws meant to protect the environment and the community.”

“Today’s indictment holds Erie Coke Corporation and its management responsible for covering up and lying to federal regulators and the public about their discharges,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge for the Mid-Central Area Branch. “Through thorough investigative efforts by EPA and its state partner, we were able to uncover the fraudulent scheme.”

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not more than five years in prison, a fine of $250,000,00, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole Vasquez Schmitt and Michael L. Ivory, and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Perry D. McDaniel and Martin Harrell are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case.

An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Related Articles:

-- DEP Begins Hazardous Site Investigation Into Contaminants Left At Former Erie Coke (Coal) Plant In Erie

-- DEP Denies Erie Coke (Coal) Operating Permit; Files For Injunction To Close Plant Following Numerous Violations

[Posted: November 17, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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