State moves to shut down coke plant, citing violations

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ERIE, Pa. (AP) — State environmental regulators are moving to shut down a coke plant in northwestern Pennsylvania, citing "years of numerous repetitive environmental violations."

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said Monday it has denied Erie Coke Corp.'s application to renew its operating permit and filed a complaint in Erie County Court to shut down the plant.

There had been "persistent complaints" from the community for more than a decade, Environmental Secretary Patrick McDonnell said, and Erie Coke had been given many opportunities to address the violations.

"Unfortunately, the frequency and severity of Erie Coke's violations have only increased during our review of its permit renewal and the operator has offered no tangible causes for its non-compliance nor viable plans to assure future compliance," McDonnell said in a statement.

The department, he said, "has made the rare decision to not only deny the company's application to renew its operating permit, but also seek a court injunction to shut down the facility."

Ed Nesselbeck, Erie Coke Environmental Director, told the Erie Times-News that the company was reviewing the department's statement.

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He told WICU-TV last week that environmental compliance "though challenging, will be doable" and asked for "cooperation and patience" from all stakeholders.

"The plant didn't get this way overnight, and we will not achieve our goal by tomorrow," he said . "All the same, I am very optimistic."

The plant, which produces coke, a key ingredient in the steelmaking process, employs 125 people. A threatened shutdown in 2010 was averted through a court-ordered settlement.

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