E&E: DOJ is urged to toughen agreement with S.S. Badger

By Manuel Quinones, E&E reporter

Environmental groups and Illinois’ senior U.S. senator are asking the Department of Justice to strengthen an agreement with Lake Michigan Carferry Inc. that calls for the company to stop dumping coal-combustion ash into Lake Michigan.After a long dispute between the company and U.S. EPA over ash dumps from the S.S. Badger, the Great Lakes’ last operating coal-fired ferry, both sides reached a resolution earlier this year (Greenwire, March 22). The company agreed to stop waste dumps by 2014 and pay a $25,000 fine.But groups — including the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club — asked DOJ to stiffen the fines and make other changes to the deal.

“We respectfully request that the proposed consent decree be strengthened to ensure that the S.S. Badger and its owners stop dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan by 2014,” the letter said.

“More than four years have already passed since the owners of the S.S. Badger committed to end the coal ash dumping,” the letter added. “The S.S. Badger should finally clean up its operations and stop polluting Lake Michigan.”

Another key request by groups is that the agreement contain a stipulation barring the company from seeking any compliance extensions.

“There’s a clarity to that. And it comes in light of the history,” ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said in an interview. If the company doesn’t agree, Learner said, “that tells you something about their motivations and plans.”

Groups say the government has received more than 7,000 comments on the issue. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a foe of the Badger’s ash waste, encouraged people to weigh in (E&E Daily, April 10).

It’s unclear whether the comments will have any effect on the proposed consent decree, lodged and pending approval in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

BACK TO ELPC IN THE NEWS