File this under 'the-more-things-change....'
The Manitowoc, Wisc.-to-Ludington, Mich. S.S. Badger will get two more years to dump coal ash into Lake Michigan.
It's a practice 60 years old, though cleaner fuels have been around a long time - - and the ship's EPA dumping permit had run out at the end of 2012 with the deadline understood for several years, as this 2009 Michigan report indicated:
Ludington almost lost the S.S. Badger ferry operations late last year as new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discharge regulations came close to permanently ending the historic cross-lake service...
The lobbying efforts of high-powered Washington attorney Barry M. Hartman persuaded the EPA to allow coal-powered ferries to continue to dump coal ash overboard with little restriction until December 2012. The Lake Michigan Carferry now has several years to find an on-board ash storage system or retrofit the Badger to use another fuel.So there is this last-minute deal between the company and the EPA that calls for an ash-dumping reduction of 15% and the installation by 2015 of an on-board collection system. The ship owners pay a fine of $25,000 for permit violations.
Observers have said the deal will resolve the dumping issue and do so more quickly than other remedies that would probably have tied things up in court and stretched out the process and eventual solution.
Though the company knew in 2008 it was supposed to have the dumping issue fixed by 2012, so it looks to me like the company, with a full-court PR press, beat down a pliant regulatory process.
The ship now deposits an estimated 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each sailing season of about five months, so even with a reduction, Lake Michigan still will receive hundreds of tons of coal ash until 2015.
You can decide if this is a win, or a cave-in, or something in between.
All other coal-fired Great Lakes shipping abandoned coal for cleaner fuels; the Badger is the last of its kind on these waters.
Here's what I wrote about a year ago:
As the Great Lakes ferry season opens, the controversy over the S.S. Badger's routine coal ash dumping into Lake Michigan - - 3.8 tons a day - - is renewed.
I've been writing about this for years.
The ship's lobby is strong, which means we're asking the same questions today as were asked in 2009:
And by the way, do you think the SS Badger will somehow wangle an exemption from recent EPA action and remain as the only coal-burning ship on the Great Lakes - - complete with hosing out the boilers and washing the ash into Lake Michigan?