The now-shuttered Erie Coke Corp. and one of its corporate officers have been indicted by a federal grand jury for violations of the Clean Air Act and conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The eight-count indictment, returned on Tuesday and unsealed today, named Erie Coke Corp., now permanently out of operation, and Anthony Nearhoof, 41, of Pittsburgh, as the defendants. Nearhoff was arrested Wednesdays by special agents, according to legal documents.
According to the indictment, Erie Coke Corp. and Nearhoof tampered with measurements on heating systems that emitted contaminants and pollutants into the air including volatile gasses such as benzene, toluene, and xylene from October 2015 through December 2019.
The indictment alleged 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 gasses directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system.
“Nearhoof directed, instructed and pressured employees…to open coke oven flues to vent emissions in a manner that bypasses the Continuous Opacity Monitor,” the indictment reads. “Such directives occurred via personal directives, by radio to workers on the batteries, and sometimes in writing in a log book used by battery foremen to convey information from shift to shift.”
The Justice Department said the indictment demonstrates its “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.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Chung said in a statement.
Jennifer Lynn, the special agent in charge for the Mid-Central Area Branch, agreed.
“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,” she said. “Through thorough investigative efforts by EPA and its state partner, we were able to uncover the fraudulent scheme.”
GASP supported the community group Hold Erie Coke Accountable in its work to end Erie Coke’s noxious odors and billowing plumes emanating from the plant perched on Lake Erie’s shore. You can read about that work here.