Clean Air Coalition holds meeting on Tonawanda Coke, DEC will not hold public hearing

Tonawanda

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB)–After ignoring requests to hold a public hearing for months, the DEC finally announced they would not be holding their own public hearing on how to move forward with the former Tonawanda Coke site.

Instead, they plan to rely only on written public comments.

In a statement to News 4, a spokesperson with the DEC says they plan to move forward with an application to the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) after they conducted an initial review.

They claim a BCP would mean a faster clean up, getting the property back into use quicker.

Some are concerned this wouldn’t be enough. Members of the Clean Air Coalition say some residents who live near the contaminated site are worried about who will end up paying for the cleanup.

With a brownfield program, costs associated with the development can be recouped with tax credits. That means the polluters, in this case, Tonawanda Coke and Honeywell International, may not be required to pay for the full cleanup.

The coalition is calling for the DEC to use a superfund program, which does hold the polluters accountable for the cleanup without tax credits.

While the DEC says they plan to move forward with the BCP once written comment period is over, the group says they’re hopeful tonight’s meeting got their message across.

That public comment period is done by Saturday.

If you would like to send something in on this issue to the DEC before then, click here.

A spokesperson for Jon Williams, owner of the former Tonawanda Coke site, says he bought the property out of bankruptcy this fall and is pursuing the full cleanup and redevelopment of the site under the NYS Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Williams released a statement regarding cleanup of the site:

We share the same goal as everyone for the former Tonawanda Coke property, which is to see the site cleaned up to the stringent environmental standards of New York State. More than that, we want to put the site back into productive use so that it can be an economic driver in Tonawanda for generations to come. The New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program not only makes that possible, but goes further in addressing on-site conditions than the New York State Superfund. Both programs are driven by New York State clean-up standards. The Brownfield program requires that the entire site be remediated under the strict oversight and enforcement of the DEC, even work that would fall outside of the obligations addressed in the Superfund. By addressing not only environmental conditions that exist below the surface, but also above grade conditions, such as structures and fixtures, we, together with Honeywell, can set a path for the eventual redevelopment of the site. Instead of a fenced-off grass field with no end-use, we think our vision for the Riverview Innovation & Technology Campus can create dynamic economic opportunity in the Town of Tonawanda. Environmental remediation and economic development are not mutually exclusive. The New York State Brownfield Cleanup Program ensures this.”

Jon Williams

His spokesperson also added a separate citizen group, Citizens Science Community Resources and the Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce are advocates for the BCP.

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