Pulling Stuff Forward: 2007 all over again
At some point when an entire regional establishment is behind an apparent train-wreck and you can not find anyone to help you understand the situation or step forward with you, you try to take tentative steps to create a space for dialogue. And then, if you receive a visitor to your office who goes into detail the history of “Political Assassinations” in East Chicago for much smaller things – you ask yourself WTF. So you can see I am not quite over this…
In response, I did these designs during the local Mayoral election. I produced them as postcards, but couldn’t finance any billboards. I am still trying to figure out what is the best way to go about this kind of advocacy here in East Chicago and NWI. With this population visual communication is very important to getting your message across. I intended to draw a direct equation between our politicians and the result of their actions. Many local opposition leaders and environmental types liked the images but recoiled from the directness of the attack. Perhaps the visitor to my office explains why. I considered doing projections on buildings and street art, but abandoned the ideas do to the amount of commitment they would take.
- Political Corruption and the Corruption/Contamination of our Environment
- The tight relationship between certain environmental organization, industries, non-profits, media and government
- Who are environmentalist to judge issues of economic development and jobs, and why do they do it?
- Is there a better way to include other measurables, such as environment and culture, in a cost/benefit analysis?
- Is there a way to marry development opportunities with addressing environmental or cultural impairments?
- Should this be the end of the incrementalist approach to environmental management?
Case Study: The BP Expansion in East Chicago – Lessons Learned
This is an example of the enormity of an issue that East Chicagoans face and are unprepared to deal with. In most part, the region is also unprepared to deal with the enormity of this kind of issue. Of the many tremendous impairments in this industrial region and in East Chicago specifically, the severe degradation of the environment stands as one of it most important issues, and triggers an array of environmental justice issues. For any well intended and brilliant individual, the complexity and depth of any single issue requires an almost lifetime commitment, enduring long periods without success – as in the eight years of the Bush administration.
Let me state from the get-go that my opinion on the BP project is NOT framed by a desire to Shut them down. I am more interested in evaluating what occurred against a clear need to reverse the environmental tread in this area and use every project to advance an agenda to address the serious impacts a hundred years of Industrial development has had on the immediate area. When evaluating the permitting process for the BP expansion project in East Chicago, I am concerned first and foremost about what happened in the environmental community. In an adversary process I expect Industry to work to maximize its interests, but I do not expect to hear nothing from the environmental community. So what happened?
- How and why did the environmental community fail to vigorously participate and advocate for the environmental health and welfare of the community?
- Has years of industry organizing opposition to its own projects completely neutered the environmental community?
- Are our local environmentalist out-numbered, out-skilled, and out-spent by industry?
- Are legitimate environmental voices marginalize by the process or lost in the noise?
- Does the process marginalize some environmental voices or concerns over others? if so which and why?
- Has the region, which is dependent on heavy and enormously dangerous industries, compromised and severely weaken the environmental community?
- Does the environmental community need to rebuild its capacity to serve as a legitimate voice on environmental issues?
Despite the hidden fact that the permit was in clear violation of the Clean Water Act, the debate surrounding the expansion of BP Refinery in East Chicago did not occur in Indiana and it did not occur prior to IDEM and the EPA approving the NPDES (water discharge) permit. The debate occurred in Illinois and elsewhere after the permit was approved. I guess BP just forgot to pay-off members of the political establishment on the other side of the boarder. So Dick Durbin and Rahm Emanuel orchestrated a very public petition drive. And so the politician in Illinois got something.
So why was there so little opposition to the project in Indiana? Few people were even aware of the application for the permit, let alone concerned about the levels of discharge and the increased negative impact on the environment. On the political side, Mayor Pabey and the Director of Redevelopment both articulated that BP had promised to do a lot for the East Chicago. The only problem was that the promises were not in a any formal document I have seen by anyone. BP had already got the buy-in of prominent environmental groups (Lee Botts, Tom Anderson of Save the Dunes, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and Dunelands Sierra Club) long ago, or at least until Illinois made a fuss over it? Once that occurred Lee Botts went on the radio, and penned several defenses on her actions, and Tom Anderson joined in the petition drive against the permit.
What is important is where were the Environmentalist before the permit was approved? We know they were at the table and informed on the project by Kay Nelson of the Northwest Indiana Forum. So, if they had any concerns about the permit before it was approved, why didn’t they inform the public?
So why did the Save the Dunes, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club remain silent during the permitting process?
- Lee Botts: considered one of the most important environmentalist in the region, an expert on the Great Lakes and the environmental representative on the State Water Pollution Control Board, never made a public statement about the project.
- Tom Anderson: Director of Save the Dunes and the environmental representative on the State Air Pollution Control Board, also never took a public position against the project.
What were Lee Botts and Tom Anderson doing prior to the approval?
– Lee Botts says she tried to get the word out to the public. But where and when did she speak or write anything. When their is an issue she wants speak up on she has no problem penning a guest column in the Local papers.
– Tom Anderson was involved in re-designating the region as an attainment zone for sulfur dioxide just months prior to the announcement of the BP permit. This was an important designation for BP because they were looking to refine a high-sulfur product coming out of the tar-sands in Alberta Canada and needed access to more of the air-shed.
Once the debate began, third party environmental groups (The Great Lakes Alliance – Affiliated with Lee Botts, and National Defense Fund) mobilized to negotiate a terms between BP and some undefined “PUBLIC.”