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Another Voice: Feeding frenzy has been unfair to Tonawanda Coke

By Tony Farina

I think it is extremely important to inform the public that despite the media and ill-informed feeding frenzy that has occurred regarding Tonawanda Coke, the perception that this is a company that doesn't care about its neighbors or the environment is just not true.

What is true is that a stack draft malfunction was discovered in May and that Tonawanda Coke has engaged in an aggressive and exhaustive inquiry to track down potential causes, resulting in a series of corrective actions taken in an effort to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

During the ongoing effort to fix the malfunction, Tonawanda Coke reduced production, at times shutting down more than a third of its ovens, in order to address environmental and health concerns. At no time during the malfunction issue did Tonawanda Coke exceed 42.6 percent of normal production. Does that sound like a company that doesn't care about its neighbors or workforce of about 120 people or that is putting profits above compliance?

And it should be noted that even data collected by the state DEC – and reported in The Buffalo News on July 24 – shows that there are "no apparent violations over the past two months for air pollution from soot." That's hardly a finding that deserves to be called a condition of "potential harm," as was asserted in a warning notice issued by the DEC.

It is also fact that Tonawanda Coke has brought in a highly regarded combustion engineering consultant, a leader in the industry, Westbrook Thermal Technology, the leader of which has a 35-year track record, to undertake a thorough assessment of Tonawanda Coke's coking operations. The consultant remains on site with great improvement already experienced.

DEC had been advised of the expert's assistance and had greeted the news with optimism, and given that situation Tonawanda Coke was taken somewhat by surprise by the DEC's cease and desist order of July 20.

Tonawanda Coke is not an uncaring neighbor and has been working closely with the DEC for some time, providing full access to the state agency. If necessary, Tonawanda Coke reserves the right to contest the DEC's assertions at a permit revocation hearing.

For the people who depend on Tonawanda Coke for their livelihood and pay taxes just like everybody else, all the misinformed and downright hostile attacks are very disconcerting and have caused anguish and concern about the future.

This company is not out to hurt the surrounding community. The facts show that Tonawanda Coke is doing everything within its power to provide a fully compliant facility. We would urge the public to not be caught up in the feeding frenzy and give this company and its workers a chance to survive.

Tony Farina is a spokesman for Tonawanda Coke.

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