Tonawanda Coke Hearing to Resume Monday

Federal judge could rule on probation violation

Tom Puckett
September 14, 2018 - 12:40 pm

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) A federal judge heard testimony in the probation hearing involving Tonawanda Coke. A ruling will wait until at least Monday.

Federal prosecutors laid out their case Tonawanda Coke violated its probation. Prosecutors say Tonawanda Coke has failed to keep opacity of smoke stacks to 20% time and time again. One witness was an observer, allowed to measure without the use of instruments. That observer says he was allowed to be within 15 percent of the actual readings.

Judge William Skretny was not pleased with the prosecution's pace. "I explained these proceedings were to be succinct and focused and in my judgment they have not been," scolded Skretny, adding the prosecution was presenting at a tortoise's pace.

In the afternoon, it was Tonawanda Coke's turn to present their case. While they acknowledged that more work needs to be done to completely solve the smoke stack opacity problems, they noted that the company has been working to address the issues. Also, the defense said that the emissions causing the high opacity are not detrimental to the environment, or to the health of the community.

"The eveidence today showed that opacity is simply not causing harm to the community," said Tonawanda Coke attorney Reetuparna Dutta. "But, we've worked very hard to address the court's timetable , and we're going to be back here on Monday, and we're going to continue to respect the process going forward."

Further, the defense argued that a shutdown of operations would essentially be a death sentence for the plant, as it would cost north of $60 million for the company to start over.

Due to time constraints, not all testimonies were heard Friday. Therefore, Skretny ordered that three other affidavits will be accpeted (one by the defense, two by the prosecution) if they are in by Monday morning at 8:30, with both sides meeting Monday afternoon at 1:30.

If Skretny rules there was a probation violation, he could order Tonawanda Coke to shut down immediately.

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