Last September, the Town of Tonawanda and several partners signed a charter to formally launch the Tonawanda E3 Initiative — a new program to help us address critical issues of economy, environment and energy in our community. A key to the success of this new and bold initiative is building lasting relationships among residents, government, business and a host of support agencies.
We have made slow and steady progress in our efforts to educate companies about the E3 Initiative, and identify potential projects to increase the competitiveness of our industrial base while reducing the impact on our environment. Whenever we challenge ourselves to take new roads, however, there are often bumps along the way.
A recent media event organized by the WNY Clean Air Coalition (CAC) represents such a bump. Statements were made at the event that — on face value — are factual. Without a closer look at the facts, however, the public may be led to inaccurate conclusions. It is important to clarify the public record in fairness to the company criticized during the event, as well as to continued success of the Tonawanda E3 Initiative.
As reported in the Tonawanda News, the media event was held on June 28 outside the DuPont plant on River Road. Erin Heaney, executive director of the CAC, was technically correct in stating that DuPont was fined $165,000 for a violation of the federal Clean Air Act. Without clarification, however, readers might infer that the company was guilty of improper emissions. In fact, the violation was for failing to properly calibrate and test monitoring equipment.
Ms. Heaney was also technically correct in stating that DuPont has been listed as “non-compliant” with the Clean Air Act for a three year period. Without clarification, readers might again infer that the company was guilty of improper emissions during that period. In fact, environmental officials point out that their tracking system does not remove the “non-compliant” status until formal paperwork is filed — long after the company resolved the calibration and testing violations. They state that DuPont responds quickly to their calls and the company is in compliance.
Missing from the conversation are examples of stewardship that DuPont has adopted to reduce the impact on our environment and to work with community organizations. DuPont has participated in our Hazardous Materials Advisory Committee (HMAC) for several years, as well as the Community Advisory Panel (CAP). The CAP is a group of several companies that meet regularly with residents to provide information about operations and safety programs, and to respond to any concerns.
With clarification and additional information, it is clear that the CAC is incorrect in it’s statement that DuPont is a “corporate polluter.” The error is compounded by asserting that DuPont should not receive public funding for new investments, comparing the company to Tonawanda Coke.
Each member of the E3 Initiative brings an important perspective to the table. The CAC is an important link to our residents, providing those residents with tools to understand complex issues and speaking for those who may otherwise have no voice. Media events are one tool that community organizations can use to generate awareness.
There is a responsibility among all members, however, to give residents a complete and accurate assessment of any given issue, if we are to make lasting progress toward our ultimate goal improving quality of life through stewardship of our economy, environment and energy. We must not be afraid to criticize when warranted, but we must do so in a way that encourages a path forward. We must set the record straight when errors are made.
The Tonawanda E3 Initiative brings groups together in ways they have never been brought together before. It challenges people to think in ways they have never thought before. There are going to be bumps along the way. As long as we focus on the ultimate goal, we have the talent and conviction to overcome any challenge and achieve great things for our community and businesses.
Anthony Caruana is the supervisor of the Town of Tonawanda.