TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) - Federal prosecutors want a judge to rebuff Tonawanda Coke’s request for more time to pay its final community service payment due today.
A federal jury in 2013 found Tonawanda Coke and its former environmental control manager guilty of violating the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulators. In 2014, the judge ordered the company on River Road in Tonawanda to pay $24.6 million in fees and fines, with $12.2 million going to funding of two community service projects. The final payment due today is for $2 million.
Tonawanda Coke filed court papers Friday asking for a delay in the payment because the company has not been able to obtain a loan. In the past, Honeywell International had loaned the payments to Tonawanda Coke. But this time, according to attorneys for Tonawanda Coke, Honeywell is holding back the money because of the uncertainty surrounding the company’s future.
“TCC simply does not (and did not) have the funds to make the payment,” said Tonawanda Coke’s attorney Jeffrey Stravino.
In September, a federal judge found Tonawanda Coke guilty of violating its 2014 probation by spewing thick, black smoke from its heat stack. In addition, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has a hearing with an administrative law judge beginning Wednesday to decide if Tonawanda Coke’s two air permits get revoked.
Such a move would mean Tonawanda Coke would shut down for good, company officials have said in court documents.
“Honeywell may reconsider its position on the anticipated funds if TCC is successful at the DEC revocation hearing, or is otherwise able to resolve the matter with DEC without losing its permits,” Stravino said in court papers.
United States Attorney James P. Kennedy and Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Mango filed court papers Friday night that state this is Tonawanda Coke’s fourth attempt following its original 2014 sentencing to stay or modify the terms of its community payments.
Kennedy points out how Tonawanda Coke attorneys said during the federal probation hearing that keeping them open would allow them to pay for final installment.
Therefore, the federal prosecutors said it is Tonawanda Coke’s fault that it is not prepared to make this final payment, “despite years of knowing that this last payment was coming due Oct, 8, 2018, and having knowledge for the past two months that the NYS-DEC wanted to revoke its operating permit.”
“… Tonawanda Coke could have set aside money to satisfy its financial obligations to the Court and the community,” Kennedy said.
“Instead, we now have a situation where Tonawanda Coke ignored its responsibility to the Court and the community by failing to have proper financial foresight regarding its community service payment. Essentially, what Tonawanda Coke is now asking the Court to do is give it a pass for inadequate financial planning.
“This is particularly troubling to the government since the parties just completed a violation of probation proceeding where Tonawanda Coke expressly acknowledged its obligation to make its last community service payment and used this fact to advocate for a specific disposition from the Court. Now, on the eve of the payment being due, Tonawanda Coke is moving to avoid making this payment.”
U.S. District Judge William Skretny has not made his decision.