A judge has ruled in favor of Tonawanda Coke allowing the plant to stay open.
The judge said that there was insufficient evidence from the government that the dark smoke from its waste heat stack is poisonous gas or that the smoke contains any hazards.
Earlier this week, a federal judge found Tonawanda Coke guilty of violating the terms of its probation by exceeding a 20% opacity level on several occasions this year. In simple terms, opacity means the density of smoke coming from a smoke stack.
Tonawanda Coke admitted that problems at the plant resulted in the opacity violations, but the company maintained the thicker smoke did not cause an increased health risk to the community.
U.S. District Court Judge Hon. William Skretny handed down that verdict Monday afternoon, saying the opacity of the emissions was darker than legally allowed.
Judge Skretny reprimanded Tonawanada Coke for "failing the community" and he ordered the company to finish repairs to leaky coke oven batteries by October 13th, complete an emissions test on the smoke stacks within 60 days of finishing the repairs, and pay for a independent monitor to keep watch over environmental concerns at the facility.
Federal prosecutors pushed to have the Town of Tonawanda plant shut down for the safety of the surrounding community, and both the government and community groups expressed disappointment with the judges ruling.
Tonawanda Coke is still facing an October 10th New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) hearing to determine if the plant's Title V air permit will be revoked. That operating permit is required under the Clean Air Act for companies that emit pollutants.
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