Three federal agencies served a search warrant April 18 to an Erie, Pennsylvania, manufacturer with a history of pollution problems.
GoErie.com reports that the search warrant was served to Erie Coke Corp. by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Criminal Investigations Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, but the agencies provided little details to the public about the reason for the action.
“EPA can confirm a federal search warrant is being served at the 925 E. Bay Street in Erie, Pa.,” the EPA said in a news release, according to GoErie.com. “This search warrant was authorized and sealed by a U.S. federal magistrate judge,” adding that investigators from all three federal agencies are participating in the probe.
According to Erie.com, “the search warrant comes four months after a federal judge approved a consent decree in which Erie Coke agreed to pay $500,000 in fines over the emission of benzene, a known carcinogen, at the plant,” adding that the settlement did not require the coke company to admit liability.
The settlement closed out an EPA lawsuit accusing Erie Coke Corp. of violating the Clean Air Act with its failure to identify and mitigate benzene leaks from its production facilities since 2010. The EPA sued the manufacturer after benzene leaks were documented in inspections conducted at the plant in November 2010 and March 2015.
The settlement also required Erie Coke Corp. to take specific measures to fix the benzene leaks at its plant and reduce benzene emissions to a safe level.
GoErie.com notes the settlement, approved by a federal judge on Dec. 16., came amid threats by Pennsylvania officials to obtain an order to shut the plant down unless it complied with environmental regulations.
Erie Coke Corp. has paid millions of dollars in fines under previous consent decrees in 2010 and 2011 for its pollution emissions.
Although federal officials have not said what they are searching for with the current warrant, they said that it was part of an ongoing investigation of plant.