Federal jury convicts Tonawanda Coke and top official of polluting air

Mar 28, 2013

The environmental control officer at Tonawanda Coke faces up to 20-years in jail and the company up to $200 million in fines after a federal court jury returned quick verdicts Thursday in a 19-count indictment.

Tonawanda Coke Plant
Credit WBFO News File Photo

The jury began deliberations Thursday morning and returned its decisions in the case by late afternoon, after a month-long trial.

The charges revolved around air pollution from what the prosecution said was a concealed relief valve venting unmonitored toxic gases.

The jury found the executive and the company guilty on most counts.  Mark Kamholtz, the environmental control officer, was convicted of obstruction of justice.

“Protecting the health and safety of our residents is one of the most paramount responsibilities of this office,” said U.S. Attorney William Hochul. “Citizens of this community are entitled to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

“The Tonawanda Coke Corporation and Mr. Kamholz intentionally deceived federal regulators by concealing the company's violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act, which were enacted by Congress to protect human health and the environment," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice.

US District Court Judge William Skretny set sentencing for July 15, with the defense allowed to submit motions to throw out the verdicts.