Guest Column: Stopping the dumping of coal ash into Lake Michigan

Editor’s note: The following is from an e-mail by Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC).

Summer is coming to an end, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center is making sure that the SS Badger car ferry’s coal ash dumping into Lake Michigan is finally coming to an end, too.

ELPC and our colleagues worked with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and others to force the SS Badger car ferry to clean up its operations and stop dumping up to 1 million pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan each year. ELPC is now watchdogging to make sure that the SS Badger car ferry complies with the federal consent decree deadline to stop dumping coal ash into the lake by 2015.

Last fall, owners of the coal-burning SS Badger and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice filed a consent decree in federal court under which the SS Badger would reduce its coal ash dumping in 2014 and completely stop dumping coal ash in Lake Michigan by 2015. Here’s a quick update on what’s happening.

1. Last winter, SS Badger operators installed new digital combustion controls that enable the ship to operate more efficiently, burning less coal on its trips from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan. This upgrade is intended to reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent this summer. That’s a step in the right direction that should have been done years ago.

2. By next summer, SS Badger operators plan to install a retention system that will store the coal ash on board the ship before disposing it in an appropriate on-land site. This should result in no more toxic coal ash being dumped into Lake Michigan, as the consent decree requires.

ELPC’s watchdogging will not end until the SS Badger’s coal ash dumping into Lake Michigan stops. The SS Badger’s owners talked about cleaning up for years prior to the consent decree, but then they stalled and delayed. The consent decree should add certainty, and ELPC will monitor to ensure it is implemented and enforced fully.

Working together, we’re on the verge of finally stopping the SS Badger’s dumping toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan. For more information on actions to protect our Great Lakes, please see www.protectourlakes.org.

Best wishes,

Howard A. Learner
Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director

From the Sept. 3-9, 2014, issue

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