Residents Offer Ideas on How to Spend Tonawanda Coke Money

May 23, 2013 Updated May 23, 2013 at 11:41 PM EDT

By Kendra Eaglin

May 23, 2013 Updated May 23, 2013 at 11:41 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY

A federal judge could order Tonawanda Coke Corporation to pay up to $200 million in fines. That money would usually go into a federal fund that is used for national clean-ups.
But lawmakers like Brian Higgins want it to stay in a local superfund.

It all depends on what happens at sentencing on July 15th.

The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York has been a vital resource for residents fighting for justice. Thursday, March 23rd the coalition held a community meeting asking residents what environmental projects they'd like to see the money used on.

There was no shortage of post-its handed out to residents at a community meeting inside the boys and girls club in Tonawanda Thursday.

Soon the walls were lined with ideas, ideas on how millions of dollars in fines against Tonawanda Coke could be used to improve the environment in the neighborhoods that endured years of pollution at the hands of manufacturing company.

"It's about time they're finally held accountable for what they've done," said Ron Labuda a Tonawanda resident.

A judge will ultimately decide whether Tonawanda coke pays up to $200 million in fines to the government. These residents are fighting for some of that money, up to $50 million, to stay in the affected communities.

But it won't just be a blank check. The Environmental Protection Agency has laid out guidelines on how the money can be spent .

"According to this criteria the money can be spent on environmental projects that reduce the impact of environmental toxins in the air and land," said Rebecca Newberry, Community Organizer for the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York .

All ideas were accepted. None to big, none to small from building skate park to setting up medical monitoring stations for residents and workers who live near the plant.

These ideas will be compiled then presented to the community for a vote.

Voting begins Saturday, June 15th to Thursday, June 20th.