Tonawanda Coke Preliminary Draft Alternatives Analysis Now Available

The preliminary draft of the proposed Alternatives Analysis for 3875 River Road, which constitutes the bulk of the acreage of the former Tonawanda Coke site, is now available for public review!

An “Alternatives Analysis” is essentially a document that lays out the different pathways for contamination clean up under consideration, with considerations for pros and cons for each pathway.

This document includes 8 potential pathways, from a baseline of no action to a full site remediation with full removal of all contaminants, and the alternatives can be found on pages 52 – 78. At this time, the site owner is recommending Alternative 5.

This is not the official draft – NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is still reviewing this version, and will likely submit needed adjustments. However, we are grateful that this preliminary draft has been made available for early public review, as this will allow everyone a chance to look over the proposals before the official comment period.

Click here to review the preliminary draft, or click here to see all the documents posted on the Riverview Innovation & Technology Campus website. You can also click here to see documents posted by NYS DEC, and here, here and here to see documents for adjacent parcels also contaminated by Tonawanda Coke.

NYS DEC is planning a public meeting to review the Alternatives after they complete their review, and Clean Air will also be hosting a meeting on November 27 from 5:30-8:30pm at the Brounshidle American Legion Post 205/VFW Post 2472 at 3354 Delaware Ave in Tonawanda to discuss the progress at all the sites along the River Road Corridor, including the findings of this preliminary draft. Click here to register for our meeting!

Clean Air Calls for Comment Period Extension and Full Environmental Impact Statement for NYS Rt. 33 Project

The Clean Air Coalition builds power by developing grassroots leaders who organize their communities to run and win environmental justice and public health campaigns in Western New York. Campaigns are created at Clean Air when they are brought forward by residents that are directly affected by a public health or environmental justice issue in their neighborhood. Campaigns are approved by our Board of Directors who are themselves voted in by dues paying members in accordance with our bylaws. A campaign consists of a campaign team and a lead staff organizer working together to build enough power to make a decision maker or target to act in a way that will positively impact resident’s health and quality of life. Clean Air does not speak for those who are affected by issues but instead works in partnership with our members to organize and center working class voices to make positive change while developing leaders. These strategies are directly informed by our core values of leadership development, resident knowledge, democratic decision making and race and class equity. 

For the last two decades members of the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC)  have been organizing for the restoration of the Humboldt Parkway. The Parkway was destroyed  in the 1970s by the construction of the NY Route 33 Kensington Expressway, a racist urban highway which served neighborhoods and helped facilitate increasing “white flight” to the suburbs while cementing segregation and destabilization of Buffalo’s East Side.  The group has been organizing for so long that some of the original members have passed away over the years unfortunately before their ultimate goal was realized. Clean Air deeply respects and honors  the longevity and persistence of this organizing by individuals who are directly affected by the issue. We also respect the decisions that were reached under the leadership of this group. This project is not an official Clean Air campaign and since we do not speak on behalf of residents without deep organizing with them we will not be making statements on the merits of one alternative or another when it comes to this project. However we will comment on issues that we have concerns with from the project that is being put forward as we do have members that reside in the project area.  Below is the comments we will be submitting:

A. The comment period should be extended. The comment period of 45 days is not sufficient for the highly technical information to be processed, discussed, and disseminated to the community and for the residents to make informed comments. We have a lot of experience in engaging the community in public comments for toxic cleanups such as Tonawanda Coke. The standard comment periods are not sufficient time for meaningful input. Particularly since there was only 30 days since the public hearing on 9/27/23 when many residents found out about the Environmental Assessment. We request the comment period be extended to 90 days. 

B. The NYS DOT should conduct a Full Environmental Impact Statement. A project of this scale within a Disadvantaged Community under the NYS Climate and Community Protection Act needs to have an in-depth environmental review beyond the scope of the Environmental Assessment currently presented. This review should include Air Quality monitoring and analysis (see detail below) as well as modeling and assurances of air quality safety during construction. The presence of asbestos in the retaining walls is of concern and the public safety from this hazardous substance should be further evaluated and more details given to the public. Concentrations of lead in the soil of the highway corridor should be investigated prior to construction. 

C. Air Quality at Tunnel Ends: Clean Air is extremely concerned about the possibility of increased concentrated vehicular emissions at the tunnel ends. We would like to see further air monitoring conducted to better understand the current air quality conditions. NYSDEC is currently conducting mobile air monitoring in NY Disadvantaged Communities which covers that project boundaries. With a full environmental review this data could be used to access current conditions as well for PM 2.5, Black Carbon, NO2, NO, CO, VOC’s and Ozone. 

We acknowledge that the modeling conducted as part of the air quality study shows that the estimated levels of PM 2.5 for Annual and 24 hour average are predicted to be within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Erie County as a whole is in attainment of these standards. However when examining data on health disparities and pollution through  USEPAs EJ Screen we find that residents within the project corridor are in the 90th percentile and above for Low Life Expectancy, Asthma, and Heart Disease nationally. Clearly attainment of the 2.5 PM NAAQS standard does not take into account the cumulative effect of many overlapping pollutants on residents’ health. Many public health scientists such as the American Lung Association are calling for USEPA to enact stronger standards more protective of public health.1. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health2, Black and low income Americans would benefit the most from stronger policies on air pollution. This is an overburdened community when it comes to pollution and absolute care must be taken that this project does not increase these burdens. We must go above and beyond the minimum standard in this case based on systemic issues which have caused 

  1. Lung Association Responds to Proposed Updates to National Particle Pollution Standards: EPA’s Proposal Falls Far Short and Must Be Strengthened
  2. Black Americans, low-income Americans may benefit most from stronger policies on air pollution


September-October Eblast Updates

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NYS Comptroller’s Office – “Weaknesses” and “Gaps” in Air Quality Monitoring and Permitting

Yesterday the NYS Office of the Comptroller released an audit of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Air Quality Monitoring and Permitting program.

The findings align with research we’ve done internally for our campaigns – many industrial operations have expired permits, sometimes years out of date, or are operating on permits issued to previous operations, or do not even have a permit at all!

Read the press release here, or click here to read the full audit.

“While the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) extensions allow Title V and Air State Facilities (ASF) to operate beyond their permit expiration date, and the Department monitors facilities under the original permit conditions, the longer the permits remain extended, the greater the risk that facilities are not operating under requirements that align with the most up-to-date air pollution control standards. For example, one permit for a Title V facility would have expired in September 2021; however, the facility submitted its renewal application timely in March 2021 and therefore qualified for SAPA extension. The facility, since the initial permit was issued, had shifted its operations to cryptocurrency mining, with projected emissions equating to more than six times its previous emissions over a 4-year period. The Department ultimately denied the renewal as the facility’s increase in greenhouse gas emissions did not align with the newly issued Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The facility has challenged the Department’s decision and continues to operate under its previous permit in accordance with SAPA.”

The audit further reviews the implications that delayed permit renewals have had on Environmental Justice goals and makes recommendations to address concerns raised. We are still reviewing this report and update as we learn more.

If you are interested in the air permit for any facilities near you, check out the DEC InfoLocator –
Zoom into the area of the facility you are interested in, and in the panel on the left under “Permits and Registrations”, click the boxes to activate the Air Facility Registrations, Title V Air Facilities, and Air State Facilities layers, then on the map click on the facility you are interested in. A box will pop up with information including the most recent reported emissions. Scroll down in this box to the section that says “Permit” and click the link next to that – a PDF will pop up of the current permit.

Send a letter to support North Tonawanda residents!

Action Alert! Please take a moment to send a letter to Governor Hochul and the local and state DEC offices in support of the residents of North Tonawanda in their long fight against the use of the former Fortistar gas-fired peak power plant by Digihost Technologies for cryptocurrency mining. Click here to send a letter now!

Clean Air’s Comments on the Town of Tonawanda Comprehensive Zoning Amendment

In response to the Town of Tonawanda’s Draft Comprehensive Zoning Amendment, our Tonawanda Tomorrow Team worked tirelessly this summer to conduct public outreach and engagement, and to develop feedback on the draft. Below is a copy of the comments we submitted, and if you would like to send a letter supporting our comments, you can do so by clicking here.

Download (PDF, 194KB)

Additionally, we also reached out to colleagues at Smart Growth America for a review of the draft, and these are their findings, which we submitted as a supplemental to our comments.

Download (PDF, 243KB)

The TTT also advocated strongly for an extension of this public comment period, requesting that the deadline be shifted from August 31 by 30-45 days, to September 30 or October 15. Unfortunately, despite a petition with 78 signatures, 7 emails sent through our ActionNetwork tool, and multiple direct asks by Clean Air staff at Town Board and Zoning Board meetings, this request was not honored. In response to our comments, however, we have been informed that there will be additional time for public comments throughout the environmental review process, and that additional public meetings will be scheduled.

Update – the Town of Tonawanda announced on September 7 that the comment period has been extended to October 31! This is a big win – we asked that the town extend the comment period by 30-45 days, and this extension is by 61 days!

You can submit your comments until October 31 directly by calling town representatives at 716-871-8847, Ext.1, or by emailing

Clean Air is also still collecting comments through our form, and if requested can submit your comments anonymously. 

When the Town publishes it’s response to our comments on the draft amendment, we will share the feedback on our comments here as well as through our social media. We expect that responses will be shortly followed by a public hearing to vote on approving the final version of the Comprehensive Zoning Amendment – stay tuned for more information, or contact Bridge to get involved with the Tonawanda Tomorrow Team!

August-September Eblast Updates

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EPA 2023 Brownfields Conference

Our Tonawanda-area Environmental Justice Organizer Bridge Rauch and Geologist consultant Tom Morahan attended the 2023 EPA Brownfields Conference in Detroit earlier this month. The two attended sessions on a wide range of topics, from anti-gentrification strategies for brownfield redevelopments to technical topics like vapor intrusion.

Bridge and Tom in DetroitEnvironmental Justice Caucus SessionClean Air’s work encompasses the full life of the sites we advocate about – for example, although we successfully fought for an equitable closure of Tonawanda Coke five years ago, we anticipate that our related campaign work will continue for decades to come as the longer term Brownfield and Superfund cleanup processes are ongoing and when the site is eventually reused.


If you are interested in joining our work in the Tonawandas, please fill out the form below and we will be in contact!

  • River Road Watchdogs – keeping tabs on existing industry in the River Road corridor and fighting for strong Brownfield and Superfund clean up standards at former sites
  • Tonawanda Tomorrow Team – fighting for just and equitable community development in the Tonawandas to prevent future environmental injustices

The next conference will be in 2025.