Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BP Pollution Update

Alliance Appeals Indiana Permit Polluting Lake Michigan

the alliance for the great lakes has filed a petition asking the indiana's office of environmental adjudication to suspend the permit and re-start the public review process. the alliance and other concern citizens were not served notice about the final permit or the appeal process.

The department's failure to notify some or all stakeholders who submitted comments on the draft permit, including the Alliance and the LaPorte County Environmental Association, resulted in the public being shut out of the formal appeal process, according to the Alliance petition.

Sometime after the close of the public comment period, the agency posted the BP discharge permit on its website -- but didn't list an effective date or otherwise indicate that it was a final permit. The agency now says the 15-day period in which the public could appeal the permit – a period that starts as soon as interested parties receive notice of the permit – has already expired.

their petition requests a stay of the bp discharge permit and to start the clock over with a new permit appeal time.

despite the broad consensus that increasing pollution in lake michigan is wrong, bp says it's going ahead. bp claims that it was a necessary consequence of meeting our energy needs.

Asserting that "the water is not going to be damaged'' by increased levels of ammonia and other refinery wastes, Elbert told reporters after meeting with government officials and environmentalists that "we're very much moving ahead with the project'' scheduled to be in operation in 2011.

Sun-Times Endorses Boycott of BP

given bp's stubbornness -- and tin ear to public outcry -- the sun-times started the chorus urging a boycott of bp products:

If BP insists on dumping more pollutants into our lake, it's time for us to stop pumping its gas into our tanks. We're calling for an all-out boycott of BP gas. Maybe then, BP will realize that hollow promises aren't good enough for customers.

Critics rip EPA Reporting Guidelines

when it rains, it pours:

Although officials at BP's Whiting refinery admit the facility dumps about 37,000 pounds of ammonia in Lake Michigan each year, members of a government watchdog group say the public is misled because the company is required to report to the EPA only 10 percent of that amount.

Moreover, the watchdogs say, the EPA system meant to inform the public of chemical releases by industry gives an incomplete snapshot of what is actually being dumped into the environment nationwide.

Federal reporting law, maligned by the Washington-based watchdog group OMB Watch, requires BP and other companies only to report to the EPA -- and therefore the public -- about 10 percent of the ammonia it dumps into Lake Michigan.

BP officials argue that its Whiting facility only releases a fraction of what it is allowed to dump under permits approved by the state and federal governments. In 2005 for example, permits allowed the facility to release an average of 1,030 pounds of ammonia per day, but company officials said it only dumped an average of 103 pounds.

"On average -- a day-in, and day-out basis -- we operate well below the current limits that are set for both ammonia and suspended solids," BP spokesman Tom Keilman said. "We always continually strive to be well below the limit."

But Sean Moulton, of OMB Watch, argues the permits are not the issue. The Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, which the EPA uses to inform the public of chemical discharges by companies, is not telling the public the whole story, Moulton said.

"There are a variety of problems with how they've constructed the system," Moulton said. "I think the way the system is going, we're getting less information."

What the law says

In the case of the BP Whiting refinery, TRI data states that the facility released about 3,700 pounds of ammonia into the lake in 2005. That's only about 10 percent of what the company estimates it dumped that year.

Part of the 1986 federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act requires companies and the EPA to make data on some toxic chemicals available in TRI, a publicly searchable database.

Certain chemicals in the TRI have limits on what is reported, and in 1995, the EPA decided companies would report 10 percent of the total aqueous ammonia, or ammonia solution that goes into water sources such as Lake Michigan.

OMB Watch, a nonprofit watchdog focusing on regulatory policy, has been a vocal critic of the TRI and past EPA changes in lowering TRI reporting limits.

"It's almost ironic that in an age where information is getting more easy to access, EPA seems to be going in the opposite direction in TRI," said Moulton, director of federal policy information for OMB Watch.

BP wastewater Meeting Scheduled

congressmen pete visclosky (D-Ind) and judy biggert (R-Ill) have asked purdue calumet's water institute and argonne national laboratory to explore alternative wastewater treatment technologies for bp. given bp's intransigence, it's hard to see that presenting bp with better options will change their mind -- unless the public (through a boycott) or the government forces bp to change their plans.

and what would be an update on the bp story without some mention of mark kirk? kirk is involved in a very competitive campaign right now, so he's looking to insert himself into every possible story. call me skeptical, since kirk's party has made it possible for bp to pollute the lake more. but here he is, urging a boycott. maybe if we didn't have weasely politicians like mark kirk, we wouldn't be in this mess -- did you ever think about that?

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