Friday, January 22, 2010

Fined 471K, Boeing Given 15.9 Million Contract To Clean Up Waste They Caused! Pure Outrage!



Erie Coke Corp. was fined $6.1 million on Monday after continued air-quality violations and was ordered to start complying with state environmental regulations immediately.Kelly Burch, the regional director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, levied the fine against the plant, which is at the foot of East Avenue, and said the company has shown "a flagrant disregard for the well-being of its neighbors."The company has 30 days to appeal the order. Company officials would not comment Monday.The $6,145,748 penalty is in response to repeated violations at the plant, a lack of cooperation in correcting violations and the financial benefit Erie Coke enjoyed by neglecting to replace and repair old equipment, according to the news release from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Monday's move followed about a year of near-daily inspections at the plant. During that time, DEP inspectors set ash jars at Lampe Marina and at other sites on the city's east side.Several collected evidence of coke residue, Burch said. That indicated the company had exceeded the allowable limits of particulate emissions -- tiny matter that can damage the lungs of people who breathe it."Any time you get fine particulate matter suspended in the air, that's not a good thing," Burch said.Erie Coke operates 58 coke ovens, some of which have run since 1942. The coal is shipped in by rail. Five miles of track crisscross the 60-acre plant.The facility has been operating out of compliance with environmental regulations on a consistent basis since early February 2007. Prior to that time, Erie Coke had regular violations, but those were corrected, according to the DEP news release.
Some Erie residents said Monday it's about time the plant was cited for the consistent violations."This is the first time that the northwest district of the DEP has finally done what they should have done more than a year ago and actually come down hard on Erie Coke," said Marty Visnosky, 55, an environmentalist who is involved with the Public Advisory Committee for Presque Isle Bay.Cory Lisek, 25, used to live about five blocks from the plant.Lisek remembers how the whole house was covered with a dark black dust that she believes was the result of Erie Coke's operations. It was hard to keep the home dusted, and the dark residue also was on vehicles."It's kind of one of those things you just dealt with."
There also was a tar-like smell that was prevalent most days, she said.Lisek now lives on East Lake Road, about a mile from Erie Coke. She gets a whiff of the smell sometimes, but not as often as when she lived closer to the plant.She hopes the fine will help bring about environmental improvements."I think it's wonderful. I think it's a good thing," she said. "It's about time."Monday's order also requires maintenance, repair and daily operational records from the company, and quarterly reports on its progress. DEP will continue its inspections, Burch said.
"It's not going to be an overnight fix," he said.This is not the first time the company has paid a financial penalty for environmental missteps. In 2006, Erie Coke agreed to pay $51,000. As part of that settlement, the company was to develop a plan to reduce emissions at the plant.Burch said Monday that talks with the company seemed to have reached an impasse."There are certain things we expect them to do, and a timeline we feel is accessible. But when you can't agree on these things, it's time to take a unilateral order."SHARLA BARDIN can be reached at 870-1791 or by e-mail.ROBB FREDERICK can be reached at 870-1733 or by e-mail.
About Erie Coke Corp.J.D. Crane acquired the plant and began operations as Erie Coke Corp. in 1987. The 60-acre plant operates 58 coke ovens, some of which have run since 1942. The first blast furnace that operated in Erie was built in 1833. It was powered by a blind horse walking in a circle, hitched to a driveshaft.

Coke plant officials targeted in EPA raid
Accused of not submitting plan for testing protocols

Federal agents raiding the Tonawanda Coke Co.’s plant on River Road Thursday were after company officials who ignored a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demand to submit testing protocols for hazardous emissions.
An EPA spokesman in New York City declined to comment on any connection to the raid and the EPA demand, which was ignored as Tonawanda Coke officials came under increasing heat from federal lawmakers about the company’s benzene emissions.
The raid Thursday included EPA officials from its criminal investigation division, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Coast Guard and state attorney general’s office.
“We took records and samples,” U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter said after the raid, declining further comment.
J.D. Crane, the owner of Tonawanda Coke, did not return a call to comment.
The inclusion of agents from EPA’s criminal division in the raid marks a change from federal action taken at a coke plant in Erie, Pa., also owned by Crane.
The EPA filed suit against Erie Coke on Sept. 22, alleging continuing pollution, poor maintenance of its coke ovens and lack of required annual inspections of its boilers and smoke stacks.
The federal suit said Erie Coke could be liable for damages of more than $32,500 a day for violations.
Those damages come on top of $6 million that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection levied against Erie Coke.
The raid against Tonawanda Coke came after New York’s U.S. senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer, and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, had called on EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to develop a benzene reduction plan for Tonawanda Coke.
The Buffalo News reported in October that a state DEC study had found Tonawanda Coke to be the primary source of benzene, a known carcinogen, that was up to 75 times the recommended guidelines.
The raid was applauded by the Clean Air Coalition of WNY, an agency founded by residents who live near the plant and have complained for years about the smell and chemicals emitted by the plant.
“The community is excited that decisive action is being taken against Tonawanda Coke,” said Erin Heaney, executive director of the coalition. “We’re closer than ever to seeing justice delivered for the residents of Tonawanda.”
EPA records in the Tonawanda Coke case show that Dore LaPosta, director of EPA’s division of enforcement and compliance assistance in the New York region, wrote the company on Oct. 30 about environmental testing the EPA was demanding.
LaPosta, following up on talks between the EPA and Mark L. Kamholz, Tonawanda Coke’s manager for environmental control, gave the company 30 days to submit protocols for the testing, known as differential absorption light detection and ranging, or DIAL.
Also included in the letter was a list of 26 different testing items that EPA and Tonawanda Coke differed on.
“The company has responded to EPA by objecting to the state-of-the-art tests that we are requiring,” the EPA said in a November community update.
EPA said the testing should be done by April 30, and preparations for the test should be completed by March 31.
The environmental agency gave Tonawanda Coke 30 days to respond with a plan and protocol for the testing.
Elias Rodriguez, an EPA spokesman in New York, was asked if the company met its deadline.
“No,” he said, declining further comment.
In Erie, the federal government gave Erie Coke 60 days to respond to its charges, and then filed suit after the company did not respond.
The lawsuit charged Erie Coke with numerous instances of smoky emissions, poor maintenance of its coke ovens — “many of the ovens are in poor condition” — and lack of annual inspections of its smokestacks.
The suit charged that Pennsylvania environmental authorities had found that Erie Coke had not conducted tests for nitrous oxide emissions on one boiler since December 1999 and another since October 2003. The tests are required annually.
“Erie Coke is subject to injunctive relief and civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day for each violation occurring on or after Mar. 15, 2004,” the lawsuit charged, “and $37,500 per day for each violation occurring after Jan. 12, 2009.”

This 1963 image depicts an overall view of the vertical test stand for testing the J-2 engine at Rocketdyne's Propulsion Field Laboratory, in the Santa Susana Mountains, near Canoga Park, Calif. Boeing, which was fined for dumping a toxic stew of pollutants at this site, has won a no-bid stimulus contract to clean it up. (NASA)

Boeing Reaps Stimulus Millions to Clean Up Site It Was Fined for Polluting
by Alexandra Andrews, ProPublica - January 11, 2010 12:37 pm EST

One would think that the best candidate for a $15.9 million stimulus contract [2] for environmental cleanup and monitoring might not be a company fined for dumping a toxic stew of pollutants at the same site. But one would be wrong, at least according to the federal government, which awarded the no-bid job to Boeing in July, reports the new investigative-reporting outfit California Watch [3].
Boeing's environmental rap sheet features a $471,000 fine from a regional California water-quality board in 2007 for 79 pollution violations involving toxic wastewater streaming into the Los Angeles River. According to California Watch:
Boeing had discharged 118.5 million gallons of water laced with pollutants like chromium, lead and mercury, according to the water board. At one point, the company exceeded the allowable concentration of cancer-causing dioxin by 6,900 times. The water board said the chronic violations created a risk to public health and, given Boeing's resources and sophistication, were "exceedingly serious."
Nevertheless, the Department of Energy tasked Boeing with environmental monitoring at that very site, without taking bids from other companies. The pollution at the site stems from rocket engine testing and nuclear power development at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The cleanup does not, as far as one can tell from the article, seem to involve Boeing's water violations, but Boeing does now operate the lab [4], which it co-owns with NASA. Laura Chick, California's inspector general for stimulus funds, told California Watch, "It is very upsetting that the government doesn't do more due diligence before it hands money out."
For its part, Boeing says that it has made significant progress on the cleanup, to which it is "fully committed." An Energy Department spokeswoman said that Boeing's good track record and expertise justified the contract.
The California Watch report touches on two other California companies that got stimulus cash -- one under federal investigation, the other $3 million shorter after settling a lawsuit brought by San Francisco over the safety of its residential properties. But, as the report acknowledges, "most major companies in America face lawsuits and regulatory action."
In October, ProPublica’s Michael Grabell reported on other questionable stimulus payouts [5]: The Defense Department awarded nearly $30 million in stimulus contracts to six companies while they were under federal criminal investigation on suspicion of defrauding the government.
Write to Alexandra Andrews at [6]

No comments:

Post a Comment