Tonawanda News

Local News

October 20, 2009

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: Coke plant owner goes on record with Tonawanda News

For years, J.D. Crane has let everyone else do the talking.

But now, the owner of the Tonawanda Coke factory — a facility at the center of a controversy concerning serious, some say deadly air pollution — granted his first interview to the Tonawanda News.

When asked why it has taken him so long to answer his critics, Crane made it clear that he isn’t interested in going back and forth on television or in the newspaper.

“We don’t try our case in the media,” he said.

That stance has led to a one-sided debate ever since results from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s year-long air monitoring study came back showing heavy benzene emissions were coming from the area around Crane’s Tonawanda Coke factory.

For a band of residents in the surrounding neighborhood, the study was proof that their suffering — and cancer rates that exceed the norm — are Crane’s fault. Jackie James-Creedon, founder of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, has invited Crane to several group meetings to discuss those claims and work toward reducing benzene.

Crane has declined to give his side of the story — until now.

Making his case

Crane said just because he hasn’t talked publicly until now doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working with the DEC to address complaints about his factory’s emissions.

The company reports just less than 10,000 pounds of benzene sent into the air each year, which is the limit set for the plant by the government.

But Crane said that number is not based on any real measurements. Instead, the emissions numbers are based on historical data of how much comes off the smoke stacks — roughly half of the total — and other areas of the plant, such as the light oil storage tank and the ammonia still.

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