Faced with angry letters, activist e-mails, heated meetings and calls of dissent by Congress, lobbying groups and everyday Americans like you and I, oil giant British Petroleum announced that they have put on hold until September 1st (possibly longer) its plan to proceed forward with increased refinery production and corresponding increased dumping of more waste into Lake Michigan.
Senators Durbin (D-IL), Stabenow (D-MI) and additional House Members met with BP officials at noon on July 24th to show their dissent. BP sent along their chairman and President of BP America, and the manger of the oil refinery at Whiting to address the concerns raised. Congress was requesting that the EPA step in and reverse the authorizing of the permit. Although BP appeared open to other ideas for waste removal, no alternatives have emerged yet. Thus, the time between now and early fall will be a window of opportunity to reverse the trend in increasing oil production at the expense of the Great Lakes fish, wildlife and humans nearby. All parties concur, the goal is to protect the eco-system of Lake Michigan and the residents who live around it.
On July 25th, further developments occurred as noted by a press release issued from Congressman Vern Ehler's office. In Washington D.C., The House passed legislation that condemned the proposed increased dumping of contaminants in Lake Michigan. This is the resolution that had been proposed earlier by Congressmen Ehlers (MI) and Emanuel (IL). House Congressional Resolution 187 expressed the following disapproval, “The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s issuance of a permit allowing BP to increase their daily dumping of ammonia and total suspended solids into Lake Michigan” and notes, “The United States Environmental Protection Agency should not allow increased dumping of chemicals and pollutants into the Great Lakes”.
The bipartisan measure overwhelmingly passed the House by a vote of 387 to 26.
The Great Lakes caucus in Washington D.C. applauded the House for taking this stand and passing this simple yet, important resolution.
Congressman Ehlers has these thoughts for his constituents, “I support expanding refinery capacity in North America, and I believe projects such as this one can help drive down the price of gasoline for consumers. But, I do not believe that the benefits of this project should come at the expense of our most precious natural resource. The Great Lakes are the world’s largest freshwater system and serve as a source of drinking water, food, jobs and recreation for more than 40 million Americans”. Furthermore he notes, “The increases in discharge permitted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management are not consistent with the regional goal of keeping the Great Lakes clean and healthy for everyone.”
We'll stay tuned through the fall to see if the EPA revokes the permit they issued earlier, if BP will still increase refinery production and have an alternative site for the increased waste produced or if other things altogether are proposed.
So, everyone surrounding Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes region can breath a temporary sign of relief. No increased dumping…at least for awhile.
Local Area Watch