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March 27, 2013

Tonawanda Coke trial closings under way



“Does the fact that the police missed it somehow absolve him of the earlier robberies?” Mango asked. “This is not Monopoly — there is no get out of jail free card because they missed it.” 

Apart from the closing arguments’ overarching themes, Mango and Linsin also went through each of the 19 counts in the indictment against the company, detailing their own spin on the evidence that’s been presented over the past month. 

Fifteen of the 19 counts charge the defendants with violating the Clean Air Act by improperly discharging coke oven gas with an unpermitted emission source, a pressure relief valve, as well as operating two quench towers, used for cooling down the coke, without baffles to stop large particles from floating into the air.

The 16th count charges the defendants with obstruction of justice, “relating to the defendants’ role in concealing the emission of coke oven gas from government regulators during an inspection,” the indictment said.

The three remaining counts deal with the defendants’ alleged violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, including their unpermitted storage of hazardous waste next to two large deteriorating coal tanks, the unpermitted disposal of hazardous waste, as well as prohibited treatment and disposal of waste.

The lawyers expectedly disagreed on a number of issues within the charges, including whether a DEC exemption covered the plant’s alleged baffle violations and whether Tonawanda Coke appropriately notified the DEC about their use of the pressure relief valve, which, Linsin said, was “out in the open” and “obvious” for any inspector to see. 

Mango and Linsin also discussed their respective RCRA expert witnesses, who in their testimony disagreed over whether the law applies to Tonawanda Coke’s alleged violations. 

Mango recalled the prosecution’s expert testimony, which was offered by Philip Flax. Flax argued that the plant improperly recycled coal tar sludge, a byproduct of the coke-making process, and then disposed the harmful product into the land. 

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