Tonawanda Coke told state and federal official that it is planning to shut its plant Tuesday morning.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was informed by the Tonawanda Coke Corporation that due to their financial inability to legally operate the plant, they are pursuing plans to shutdown the plant. While no closure date has been provided by company, DEC will dispatch staff to oversee the safe shutdown of the TCC plant in Tonawanda, NY, and will be on-site during shutdown operations to ensure the remaining workforce and the community are protected and to secure the site. The State Department of Labor (DOL) is dispatching a Rapid Response team to assist impacted workers with intensive job placement services and information about how to access vital benefits such as unemployment insurance and NYS Marketplace affordable health care options.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “For too long, Tonawanda Coke has been a mismanaged blight on this community, and its owners will be held accountable for any damage to this community and the environment. We are directing the company to open their doors and take all appropriate steps to protect this community during their shutdown. DEC experts will be a constant, on-site presence to ensure public safety, and we demand TCC provide all information necessary to fully secure the site. After the plant is safely shuttered a comprehensive investigation of any potential contamination will be launched to safeguard the Tonawanda community.”
DOL Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “While not unexpected, the Department of Labor stands ready to help the workers who have lost their livelihood because of this negligent company’s blatant disregard for the health and safety of the community. Starting with the change of shift Monday morning, our team will be on the ground meeting with displaced workers. We’ll be here for as long as we’re needed — to help these men and women access the benefits they need and most importantly, find them new jobs.”
DEC experts will ensure workers and the surrounding community are protected, and coordinate with state and local emergency responders if any incidents occur. In addition, DEC will ensure the site is fully secured to prevent any access to the plant once it is shuttered.
DOL will be scheduling Rapid Response sessions for impacted workers next week. The department will also be working closely with the United Steel Workers to help the workers they represent. Non-represented workers will be contacted through the local mail. DOL will also be providing services at the Buffalo Career Center (284 Main St, Buffalo, NY, 14202, 716-851-2600) and the Niagara Falls Career Center (Trott ACCESS Building, 1001 11th Street, Niagara Falls, 14301, 716-278-8258).
After the shutdown is complete, state and federal agencies will work to stabilize the site and ensure the proper closure of tanks and disposal of any hazardous materials. A comprehensive investigation of the site will also be immediately launched to identify any contamination at the site, and develop a cleanup plan through a transparent, public process that ensures community input at every step.
Prior to today’s announcement, DEC and TCC had adjourned an adjudicatory hearing that began on Oct. 10. DEC staff was seeking to revoke this facility’s Title V and Air State Facility permits after repeated environmental violations. TCC intends to surrender its air permits as part of the settlement of that proceeding.
United States Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. released a statement saying:
Throughout these proceedings, it has consistently been the government’s objective to uphold the rule of law and to secure, on behalf of the entire community, some level of transparency in TCC’s operations—transparency in their emissions; transparency in their financial circumstances; and transparency in their future plans. The government’s objective has never been to do harm to TCC or its employees. Rather, it has been, and remains, the government’s sole purpose to enforce the law, without bias, without favor, and without prejudice.
As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once observed, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Hopefully, today’s developments will begin to allow some rays of sunlight to penetrate the dark cloud which this case has seemed to cast over our community.