Casey Urges Federal Agencies to Investigate Erie Coke Corp.’s Violations of Air Regulations

Sends letters to EPA, ATSDR urging close examination of environmental violations, health effects

WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today sent two letters to federal agencies urging them to examine the effects of Erie Coke Corp.’s repeated violations of air regulations on the surrounding area.

“Erie Coke Corp. must abide by environmental laws created to protect the community.  I respectfully ask that the resolution of the civil action against Erie Coke Corp. remain the highest of priorities for the EPA,” said Senator Casey in his letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.  “Further, should the company continue to operate, it is imperative that the EPA, in coordination with the DEP, ensure that Erie Coke Corp. comply with all of the emission monitoring and control requirements that have been mandated by the applicable state and Federal laws.”

In his letter to Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senator Casey expressed the need for swift resolution to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA’s joint civil suit against Erie Coke Corp. for violations of air regulations.

“Many people in Erie, especially those living in close proximity to the coke plant, believe that the plant’s emissions have caused them to suffer from a variety of health problems ranging from headaches to cancer,” said Senator Casey in his letter to ATSDR Administrator Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.  “While no direct link between the plant and these health issues has been established, the fact that the company has operated without complying with State and Federal requirements to characterize and control emissions is enough to suggest that further investigation of this matter is warranted.”

In his letter to Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), Senator Casey requested that the ATSDR conduct a public health assessment to determine if emissions from the Erie Coke Corp.’s coke-making facility has or will cause harm to the health of people living near the facility.  

The full text of Senator Casey’s letters are below.

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Dear Administrator Jackson:

On September 22, 2009, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) joined with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a civil action against the Erie Coke Corp.  The nature of the action is related to repeated violations of Federal and State air regulations at Erie Coke Corp.’s coke-making plant in Erie, Pennsylvania.  These violations include failure to prevent the release of fugitive and visible emissions, exceedances in particulate matter emissions, and failure to fully monitor and characterize all emissions from the plant.  

More recently, on May 24, 2010, the DEP issued an Administrative Order to Erie Coke Corp. to cease operations of their coking plant due to continued violations of Federal and state environmental requirements.  However, the company has obtained a temporary stay from the Pennsylvania Environment Hearing Board and as of today continues to operate.

As you know, the coking of coal can generate hazardous air pollutants including known carcinogens.   I am concerned that Erie Coke Corp. has not measured the amount of these hazardous pollutants released into the local environment and has not installed systems to control these emissions.  Many people in Erie, especially those living in close proximity to the coke plant, believe that the plant’s emissions have caused them to suffer from a variety of health problems ranging from headaches to cancer.   

Erie Coke Corp. must abide by environmental laws created to protect the community.  I respectfully ask that the resolution of the civil action against Erie Coke Corp. remain the highest of priorities for the EPA.  Further, should the company continue to operate, it is imperative that the EPA, in coordination with the DEP, ensure that Erie Coke Corp. comply with all of the emission monitoring and control requirements that have been mandated by the applicable state and Federal laws.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.   I look forward to working with you on this very important issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senate


Dear Dr. Frieden:

On May 24, 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an Administrative Order to Erie Coke Corp. to cease operations of their coke-making facility located in Erie, Pennsylvania.   The Administrative Order was the result of repeated violations of state and Federal air emission regulations by Erie Coke Corp. that included failure to prevent the release of fugitive and visible emissions and exceedances in particulate matter emissions.  The company has obtained a temporary stay from the Pennsylvania Environment Hearing Board and as of today continues to operate.

The Administrative Order also speaks to Erie Coke Corp.’s failure to fully monitor and characterize all emissions from the plant as mandated by the DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  As you know, the coking of coal can generate hazardous air pollutants including known carcinogens benzene and naphthalene.   I am concerned that Erie Coke Corp. has not measured the amount of these hazardous emissions released into the local environment.

Many people in Erie, especially those living in close proximity to the coke plant, believe that the plant’s emissions have caused them to suffer from a variety of health problems ranging from headaches to cancer.   While no direct link between the plant and these health issues has been established, the fact that the company has operated without complying with State and Federal requirements to characterize and control emissions is enough to suggest that further investigation of this matter is warranted.

Therefore, in light of your Agency’s mission to investigate and prevent health effects from human exposures to environmental hazards, I am requesting that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conduct a public health assessment to determine if emissions from the Erie Coke Corp.’s coke-making facility has or will cause harm to the health of people living near the facility.  

I respectfully ask that you initiate the requested public health assessment as soon as practically possible and thank you for your attention to this matter.   Please contact my staff at your earliest convenience if you have any questions.  I look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senate