Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 17, 2014

Tonawanda Coke appeals conviction and sentence

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — “There’s no way of knowing exactly how long it will take,” Hochul said. “Once the oral argument is completed, it’s up to the judges on how long they need to render the decision on the issues.”

The plant’s payment of the fines and community service funds should not be affected by the appeal. 

“Our preliminary indication is that the payments are still due,” Hochul said. “It will not delay the fine payments or the community service projects ordered by the court.” 

The community service projects include an $11.4 million health study and a $700,000 soil study. Residents, environmental activists and local politicians pushed for a portion of the fine money to go back to residents, and Skretny granted those requests when he ordered the plant to fund the projects over the course of five years. 

The appeal marks another step in a lengthy fight against the plant. Ten years ago, residents began organizing after years of experiencing acrid smells, soot on their homes and unusual illnesses. 

Locals publicly campaigned for air monitoring to determine the cause and nature of the pollution problem. State and federal regulators responded and found benzene, a known carcinogen and byproduct of the coke-making process, at levels 10 times higher than what’s considered safe in the air around the plant.

Their years of work eventually led to a federal indictment, 30-day trial and the guilty verdicts.

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