TOWN OF TONAWANDA —
The coalition provided documents to the Tonawanda News in 2009 and 2010, information investigators would later come to verify: The coke foundry grossly underreported benzene emissions. Benzene is a known carcinogen and air surrounding the plant tested 10 times higher than government allowances annually.
The News remains the only media source to interview Crane, the business’s owner. In 2010, Crane denied his business put out more emissions in an interview.
The court papers also require the coalition to hand over any documents sent to or received from the media, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates.
Also requested were “Any and all documents concerning the named plaintiffs in this lawsuit, or any other civil, criminal or administrative actions, lawsuits, investigations or proceedings concerning Tonawanda Coke” and other entities operating within a 25-mile radius.
The Clean Air Coalition is not a plaintiff in any lawsuit with Tonawanda Coke. The listed plaintiffs for the case in question are Jennifer Ratajczak, Glenn Ratajczak, Benjamin Ratajczak and Jessica Ratajczak.
On Nov. 28, the nonprofit with assistance of attorney James J. Duggan, asked Justice Paula L. Feroleto to quash the subpoena.
Feroleto reserved judgment on the decision.
Erin Heaney, director of the Clean Air Coalition, said the organization believes the subpoena is an attack from Tonawanda Coke.
“It’s a retaliatory attack — somewhat because of the scope of what they are demanding. It is extremely broad, they are asking for any document we have on not just Tonawanda Coke, but also anything within 25 miles of Tonawanda Coke,” Heaney said.
But she also is concerned about residents’ privacy, and said releasing confidential documents goes against the coalition’s practices.
“We take the privacy of our members, our contacts, or neighbors very seriously. It is very important to the work we do,” Heaney said. “Without folks trusting us, we can’t do our job.”
Hodgson Russ lawyers did not return repeated phone calls to comment on the subpoena and what the documents will be used for in the case.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.