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Press Release

Former Erie Coke Employee Pleads Guilty to Violating the Clean Air Act

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Pennsylvania

ERIE, PA - A resident of Fairview, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty in federal court on Feb. 24, 2023, to conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act, Acting United States Attorney Troy Rivetti announced today.

David Stablein, 54, pleaded guilty to one count before United States District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter.

In connection with the guilty plea, Stablein admitted the facts set forth in the Information filed in the case; that is, from October 2015 to September 2018, Stablein conspired with his supervisor Anthony Nearhoof and others to violate the Clean Air Act while employed at the Erie Coke Corporation. The conspiracy involved employees opening heating flues on top of the coke oven batteries by removing their caps to allow combustion gases to vent directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system. Stablein and Nearhoof, who is pending trial, personally removed flue caps, and directed others to do so, in order to vent coke oven gas directly into the atmosphere to reduce opacity levels being read by the monitoring system through the smokestack. The improper venting of coke oven gas to bypass the monitoring system and minimize opacity readings resulted in the spread of air pollutants outside the facility’s boundaries to adjoining residential and commercial areas, which presented potential dangers to the public’s health and safety.

Judge Baxter scheduled sentencing for June 30, 2023. The law provides for a total sentence of not more than five years in prison, a fine of $250,000.00, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.

Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole Vasquez Schmitt and Michael L. Ivory, and Special Assistant United States Attorneys Perry D. McDaniel and Martin Harrell are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

The Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Stablein.

Updated February 28, 2023