(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A federal grand jury has indicted Erie Coke Corporation and a corporate officer for allegedly violating the Clean Air Act. The eight-count indictment brings other charges as well.
According to the indictment, federal prosecutors allege that in about October 2015 through December 2019, Erie Coke Corporation and Anthony Nearhoof, 41, of Pittsburgh, tampered with measurements on heating systems. That reportedly emitted contaminants and pollutants into the air including volatile gases like benzene, toluene, and xylene.
Erie Coke Corporation today is permanently closed, but while in operation it was regulated by federal and state statutes and regulations including the Clean Air Act through the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection. It neighbored private residences, public facilities and schools.
According to the indictment, Nearhoof was an operator and was the “responsible corporate officer” at the plant when the pollutants allegedly were released. The indictment alleges that he directed other plant supervisors and foremen to vent combustion gases directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system.
An indictment is an accusation and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung. “This indictment demonstrates our 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.”
“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,” said Jennifer Lynn, Special Agent in Charge for the Mid-Central Area Branch. “Through thorough investigative efforts by EPA and its state partner, we were able to uncover the fraudulent scheme.”
If found guilty, the defendants could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine, followed by a supervised release of three years. The actual sentence imposed would be based on the seriousness of the crime and any prior criminal history of the defendant.
The US EPA conducted the investigation that led to the indictment.