Congressman Brian Higgins is writing to United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration calling on the federal agencies to investigate a recent incident at the Tonawanda Coke plant.
"The company's past reckless practices have led to a real and justifiable mistrust by neighbors and the community as a whole," Higgins said. "We would like to see an investigation take place to verify that all safety procedures were properly followed and confirm that Friday's incident had no negative impact on the environment generally or air quality for local residents specifically."
Last Friday, an explosion at Tonawanda Coke rattled local neighborhoods and could be heard from miles away. Local police and fire departments responded to the scene. There are mixed reports about the extent of the fire within the facility, and little explanation about the cause of the explosion.
A past criminal investigation by the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation led to charges the company and employees deliberately ignored environmental procedures. Tonawanda Coke and employees were found guilty of actions leading to the illegal release of benzene, a cancer-causing agent, into the air. Sentencing for the case is scheduled for March.
Higgins advocated publicly that any fines owed by the company as a result of the sentencing should stay in Western New York.