Erie Coke plant closes unexpectedly; company cites environmental violations

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When workers arrived for their shift at the PA plant, they were turned away, with under a week 'til Christmas

ERIE, Pa. (WJET) – Workers at a coke plant in Erie, Pennsylvania were turned away Thursday morning when they arrived for work. Turns out, the plant closed because of environmental violations.

“It just sucks,” one employee said. “Everyone is saying, ‘Close Erie Coke down.’ What am I supposed to do now? Where am I supposed to go get a job at? They close the place down, there is 120 workers now that aren’t going to have anything for Christmas.”

Another employee who works third shift said operations at the plant went normally until the end of his shift.

“They just came in at the end of the shift and told us we were relieved from our duties,” D’Marco Gregory said. “‘We’re closing today.’ They told us permanently closed, grab our stuff and hit the door.”

The company cited a combination of issues that led to the decision to close the plant, from the city severing the plant’s ability to discharge wastewater into the sewers and the financial impact of trucking it off.

Family members of those who lost their jobs are frustrated.

“The only reaction is I’m so grateful for the city shutting us down and ruining my family’s Christmas,” said Wendy Hall, who is married to a foreman.

Representatives from the United Steel Workers Local 3199-03 said they aren’t going down without a fight. They’re looking for ways to work with city and state regulators to keep the plant open.

“We’re reaching out to everybody, find employment to help these guys get back on their feet,” Todd Clary said.

The plant has over 100 Environmental Protection Agency violations dating back to 2016. Erie Coke could no longer keep up with the mounting fines.

Clary said they have not been able to talk with Erie Mayor Joe Schember but plan on having a sit-down meeting. They will also be trying to talk with Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.

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