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US v. Erie Coke Corporation, et al.

Criminal No. 1:22-cr-23

Erie Coke Corporation, along with the plant superintendent, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Erie on among other charges, Violation of the Clean Air Act.  The eight-count Indictment, returned on Nov. 15, 2022, named Erie Coke Corporation, now permanently out of operation, and Anthony Nearhoof, 41, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the defendants.

According to the Indictment presented to the court, from in and around October 2015 and continuing until in and around December 2019, Erie Coke Corporation and Nearhoof tampered with measurements on heating systems which emitted contaminants and pollutants into the air including volatile gases such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. Erie Coke Corporation was a plant regulated by federal and state statutes and regulations including the Clean Air Act (CAA) administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), which was located adjacent to numerous private residences, public facilities, and several schools.

Nearhoof was an operator and “responsible corporate officer” at the plant when hazardous air pollutants were being released and directed other plant supervisors and foremen to vent combustion gases directly into the air to avoid the plant’s environmental monitoring system.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of not more than five years in prison, a fine of $250,000,00, and a term of supervised release of not more than three years. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be 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 United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted the investigation leading to the Indictment in this case.

An Indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Now that charges have been filed in federal court, victims of the charges filed are, entitled to the following rights, according to the Crime Victims' Rights Act, Title 18 United States Code section 3771:

  1. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused;
  2. The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused;
  3. The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding;
  4. The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding;
  5. The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case;
  6. The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law;
  7. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
  8. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy;
  9. The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement; and
  10. The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. 20141(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.

Please understand that these rights apply only to victims of the counts charged in federal court, and thus you may not be able to exercise all of these rights if the crime of which you are a victim was not charged. You may contact the Victim/Witness Coordinator if you have questions about the progress of your case, your rights or the services to which you are entitled, or how you can assert them during the proceedings. If you believe that a Justice Department employee has not provided you with these rights, you may file a complaint with the Justice Department’s Victims’ Rights Ombudsman. For more information, go to http://www.justice.gov/usao/resources/crime-victims-rights-ombudsman. If you have questions about filing a complaint against an employee, you may contact the Ombudsman by email at usaeo.VictimOmbudsman@usdoj.gov.

If you believe you are a victim in this case and would like to opt-in to receive case notifications or if you have any questions about your rights, please contact the Victim Witness Coordinator at 412-894-7400 or through our website.  Additionally, if you would like to submit a victim impact statement for the Court to review in the event that one or both of the defendants are convicted, you may submit a letter or complete the “Victim Impact Statement Template” linked below and email your statement to usapaw.victimwitness@usdoj.gov or mail it to:

US Attorney’s Office – Western District of Pennsylvania
Victim/Witness Program
700 Grant Street
Suite 4000
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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Updated December 14, 2022

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