INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A handful of Indiana and Michigan residents
concerned about Lake Michigan's water quality delivered a petition
Thursday to Gov. Mike Pence's office that urges environmental regulators
to require BP PLC to cut its mercury discharges into the lake.
The petition signed by 450 people urges Indiana and federal regulators
to "act aggressively to protect our nationally treasured Lake Michigan"
by mandating BP to reduce mercury releases at its Whiting, Ind.,
refinery about 20 miles southeast of Chicago.
Before bringing the petition to Pence's office, the activists stood
outside the Statehouse displaying signs; one read "Dear Indiana, Don't
Let BP pollute our great Lake Michigan."
BP received Indiana's permission in 2011 to discharge mercury into the
lake at levels nearly 20 times the federal Great Lakes standard. Such
mercury variances are allowed under Indiana law.
But environmentalists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council,
have expressed concern that a wastewater permit awaiting state approval
for the newly expanded refinery fails to require the oil giant to
implement technologies it developed that could help reduce its mercury
Blair Stewart of Michiana, Mich., drove to Indianapolis with his wife
and two Michigan City, Ind., residents to deliver the petition. He said
Indiana's variance for BP is effectively allowing the company to delay
taking action to cut its discharge levels.
He noted that mercury is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in
fish. Expectant mothers and young children are warned not to eat tainted
fish because mercury can damage fetuses' and youngsters' developing
Stewart said Indiana needs to be tougher on BP in light of the new
mercury-removal technologies the company co-developed with Purdue
University Calumet and Argonne National Laboratory.
"An indefinite waiver just simply does not give anyone any incentive to
clean up their act," he said. "Lake Michigan is the lake that we —
people all around the lake — get our water from and it's an incredible
Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks said the governor's office had received
the petition but hadn't yet looked at it. She said the office would
review the petition and its concerns.
BP spokesman Scott Dean said in a statement Thursday that the company is
still working to refine the new mercury-removal technologies.
"While these technologies appear promising, we need to conduct more
testing to learn how they will work year-round under a variety of
weather and operating conditions alongside the new, improved water
treatment equipment that is part of our many upgrades to the refinery,"
Dean said in a statement.
He said at least 2,000 pounds of the heavy metal enter Lake Michigan
every year from various sources and that the Whiting refinery
contributes less than one-third of a pound of that amount.
Dean said BP is "actively seeking ways to make our extremely small
mercury discharge even smaller."
The Whiting refinery is nearing completion of a $3.8 billion expansion
that will make it a top processor of heavy crude oil extracted from
Canada's tar sand deposits.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is still reviewing
public comments on BP's wastewater permit for the expanded refinery and
is considering changes to the document, said Bruno Pigott, IDEM's
assistant commissioner of water quality.
"We're taking the concerns we've heard very seriously," he said
Pigott said in June that the state agency planned to revise the permit
to include a provision that BP implement mercury-removal technologies
that have been shown to work at the refinery and to set a time frame for