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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Environment - More on "State’s hand abets threats to environment"

That was the heading to this June 30th ILB post, quoting a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial.

Today the South Bend Tribune has a column by Jack Colwell, headed "Indiana in no rush to crack down on BP pollution." Some quotes:

Will BP do for Lake Michigan what it did for the Gulf?

The oil giant continues to dump nearly 20 times more toxic mercury into the lake than federal water quality standards permit. This may not lead to an environmental disaster of the type BP brought to the Gulf, but it is a threat to lake waters that are used by millions of people for drinking, waters that are a precious Midwest resource for recreation and fishing.

The Chicago Tribune, in its role as a watchdog on governmental and corporate wrongdoing, played a key role back in 2007 in bringing public and congressional pressure on BP to curtail its plans to dump tons upon tons of additional ammonia and suspended solids into the lake at its Whiting refinery in connection with major expansion at the facility.

Some Indiana politicians, including then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, defended a decision of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to approve a refinery upgrade permitting dumping of an average of 1,583 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of suspended solids per day.

Daniels said jobs for the refinery expansion were at stake in Indiana and suggested that the Chicago newspaper and the Illinois congressional delegation wouldn't have cared about added pollution if the jobs were in Illinois. Actually, many jobs go to workers from nearby Illinois, and the Chicago Tribune long has crusaded for environmental standards for all the Great Lakes, no matter the source of pollution.

BP at first said it couldn't do much about the additional pollution if it was going to go ahead with a $3.8 billion expansion of the refinery to permit processing heavy Canadian crude oil and bring thousands of construction jobs and some additional permanent jobs to the facility.

But environmental groups, in Indiana and Michigan as well as in Illinois, quickly obtained 100,000 signatures on petitions protesting the added pollution. Members of Congress threatened punitive action and introduced a bipartisan resolution condemning the Indiana environmental OK for the dumping. The House resolution passed 387 to 26. That's back when Congress could get together on something significant.

BP got the message. Gosh, they could curtail the pollution after all. And they did on the ammonia and solids.

Mercury?

BP also promised back then to develop technology to sharply reduce the discharge of toxic mercury.

The Chicago Tribune, following up in its watchdog role, now reports that BP, with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management saying OK, still can discharge nearly 20 times the quantity of mercury allowed under federal water quality standards. * * *

You've seen those TV ads, including the one where the BP spokesman insists: "Safety is at the heart of everything we do."

We'll see. Safety of lake waters that millions of people drink is pretty important. Preservation of Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes is vital for the Midwest.

And Indiana regulators and politicians should understand that Lake Michigan isn't just Chicago's lake. It's our lake, too.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 7, 2013 04:56 PM
Posted to Environment