Tonawanda News

Local News

January 18, 2013

Clean Air earns legal victory

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — A state supreme court judge ruled in favor of the Clean Air Coalition, effectively quashing a subpoena by lawyers representing Tonawanda Coke, the corporation being sued for allegedly emitting dangerous chemicals into the air and soil. 

The lawsuit in question, of which the Clean Ait Coalition is not a plaintiff, is one of 20 filed against the corporation and its CEO, J.D. Crane, by dozens of residents who say they have experienced illness and injury due to illegal emissions coming from the plant.

In August, lawyers from the firm Hodgson Ross, including Jeffrey Stravino, representing Tonawanda Coke requested documents from the Clean Air Coalition for use in defense of a lawsuit filed by resident Jennifer Ratajczak. The coalition has led a crusade against Tonawanda Coke, attacking the company, lobbying environmental officials to act, organizing residents, documenting their illnesses and collecting their own environmental data. 

In the subpoena, company lawyers requested “any and all documents concerning Tonawanda Coke Corporation, J.D. Crane, or Mark Kamholz,” the plant’s environmental control manager who was arrested by federal investigators for violating the nation’s Clean Air Act. 

The subpoena also demanded documents sent to or received from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency and any other governmental body, as well as the same information regarding entities operating within 25 miles of Tonawanda Coke. The suit also sought information gleaned from Facebook and Twitter updates, emails and media coverage. 

DEC air quality monitoring devices near the plant has found emissions of benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels far above state and federal limits — and well beyond what Tonawanda Coke has reported to regulators. Crane has long denied his foundry is the source of the noxious gas.

But the CAC, which isn’t a party in any lawsuit against Tonawanda Coke, called the subpoena a “retaliatory attack” for its efforts to curtail the emissions.

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