Chicago Sun-Times Editorial - JUST SAY NO TO BP
Copyright by The Chicago Sun-Times
August 3, 2007
If it takes a lawsuit to stop BP from putting more pollution into Lake Michigan, then by all means, Mr. Mayor, file one. If it takes cutting up BP credit cards and boycotting the company's gas stations -- as Ald. Edward Burke called for Thursday -- then let's cut the plastic and drive on by. Whatever we can do to save the lake from more contamination, we've got to do it.
Subjecting our source of drinking water to 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge particles -- not to mention the two pounds of mercury BP already dumps a year -- is not something we should tolerate, even if it looks like Indiana handed BP its permits with a bow on top.
What's even more infuriating is a key reason the company gives for needing to dump more gunk into the lake. Although its Whiting refinery has 1,700 acres, BP says the company doesn't have space near the existing plant to add a treatment system to remove more ammonia -- even though it would take about a quarter of an acre. The company contends that it has vacant space but it's too far from the rest of the treatment plant and would affect reliability and efficiency.
We think BP needs to try. It's hard to believe a company that made $22.3 billion last year can't afford to come up with a more creative solution.
It's spending $3.8 billion to reconfigure the refinery and argues that the added pollution is still within legal limits and represents no threat to the aquatic environment or regional drinking supplies. Nevertheless, the plans have set off a firestorm of protest from environmental groups and officials from Illinois and other states who view any additional pollution as a reversal of years of efforts to clean up the lake. The protests haven't yet derailed the plans.
Mayor Daley is threatening to hit the company with a lawsuit, and Burke wants to hit the company in the pocketbook. Burke ordered city departments to cancel any BP credit cards, and he moved to cut off city bond business to three financial institutions whose directors have "interlocking relationships" with BP: Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
BP and Indiana officials have said that a bigger plant could remove more ammonia. BP now contends that it really wouldn't make much difference.
But Dick Lanyon, general superintendent of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, disagrees. If BP can meet pollution targets now, expanding the refinery doesn't necessarily mean it has to dump more pollution. It could spread its water treatment plant on two different parts of the Whiting refinery.
Indiana and federal officials, meanwhile, continue to insist that the permit does not violate the Clean Water Act. Daley responded by saying that might be true, but, "Come on, this is a different age. . . . This is 2007. We should do much better." We agree. We should do much better. We should not be backsliding on our defense of the lake.