Archive for the ‘BP / TAR SANDS’ Category

[ BP’s Citizen Advisor ]

December 30th, 2010 No comments

[ Climate Change ] EPA Sets CO2 Standards

December 23rd, 2010 3 comments

[ EPA ] Sets CO2 Standards for Power Plants and Oil Refineries

Power plants account for more than 2.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, more than any other industry.  Oil refineries clock in as the second largest source, with emissions equivalent to more than 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (mainly a mixture of carbon dioxide and methane).

via NRDC Switchboard [ David Doniger’s Blog ]

List of Coal Plants in the US via [ Wikipedia ]

Rank State # of Plants Total
2005 Power
1 Texas 20 21,238 148,759
2 Ohio 35 23,823 137,457
3 Indiana 31 21,551 123,985
4 Pennsylvania 40 20,475 122,093
5 Illinois 32 17,565 92,772
6 Kentucky 21 16,510 92,613
7 West Virginia 19 15,372 91,601
8 Georgia 16 14,594 87,624
9 North Carolina 25 13,279 78,854
10 Missouri 24 11,810 77,714
11 Michigan 33 12,891 71,871
12 Alabama 11 12,684 70,144
13 Florida 15 11,382 66,378
14 Tennessee 13 10,290 59,264
15 Wyoming 10 6,168 43,421
16 Wisconsin 28 7,116 41,675
17 Arizona 7 5,861 40,730
18 South Carolina 16 6,469 40,545
19 Oklahoma 7 5,720 36,446
20 Utah 8 5,080 36,008
21 Colorado 15 5,309 35,671
22 Virginia 22 6,208 35,099
23 Iowa 28 6,506 34,729
24 Kansas 8 5,472 34,595
25 Minnesota 21 5,670 34,336
26 New Mexico 4 4,382 29,990
27 North Dakota 10 4,246 29,813
28 Maryland 9 5,236 29,782
29 Arkansas 3 3,958 23,356
30 Louisiana 4 3,764 23,190
31 New York 18 4,273 22,018
32 Nebraska 8 3,194 20,175
33 Nevada 3 2,769 18,412
34 Montana 4 2,536 17,844
35 Mississippi 5 2,696 16,661
36 Massachusetts 6 1,776 12,095
37 New Jersey 7 2,237 12,090
38 Washington 1 1,460 10,483
39 Delaware 4 1,082 5,185
40 New Hampshire 2 609 4,097
41 Connecticut 2 614 3,995
42 Oregon 1 601 3,588
43 California 8 439 3,024
44 South Dakota 2 481 2,999
45 Hawaii 1 203 1,548
46 Maine 1 103 754
47 Alaska 5 118 650
48 Idaho 2 19 51
49 Rhode Island 0 0 0
50 Vermont 0 0 0

List of Oil refineries in the US via [ Wikipedia ]









Read more…

[ Tar Sands ] On the Great Lakes

December 2nd, 2010 No comments

via [ Sierra Club ] Toxic Tar Sands: Indiana

Carolyn Marsh, Whiting Indiana

Carolyn Marsh’s house in Whiting, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago, sits within walking distance of both Lake Michigan and the BP Whiting Refinery. One is beautiful and the other, Marsh says, looks like “a death trap zone.” Now BP is pushing to expand the capacity of its refinery to process tar sands crude.

The synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxins than conventional oil. If the expansion goes through, people like Marsh, who live in the shadow of these refineries, will face increased exposure to heavy metals, sulfur, and carcinogens like benzene.

After learning of BP’s plans to pump tar sands pollution into the air and her community, Marsh was galvanized to action. She joined a legal challenge to the oil giant’s air permit.

Marsh believes BP’s permit application dramatically underestimates the potential air pollution from their tar sands expansion. The company understated the amount of toxic gases vented from flares, claiming they would only be released occasionally. But flaring will only increase as the refinery handles more of the world’s dirtiest oil.

Flaring is only one part of the refinery’s massive polluting process, and air pollution is not the only threat that Marsh fears from the tar sands expansion.

“We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits.”

The refinery is already one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in Lake Michigan. Mercury is a

Tar sands crude spells disaster for clean water in every step of its life cycle. If tar sands operations continue to expand in America, Lake Michigan will be exposed to the same types of contamination spreading through the once pristine water sources along the Athabasca River in Alberta, where tar sands are mined.

A recent study published by leading Canadian scientists found elevated concentrations of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead and mercury around and downstream from tar sands mining operations, suggesting a strong correlation between tar sands mining and toxic discharges to water resources.These poisonous impurities are released in refining as well, and discharges from BP’s tar sands expansion will bring the pollution of the Athabasca directly to Lake Michigan.

Marsh believes the citizen struggle to stop the tar sands expansion is her community’s best line of defense, and she has committed to the fight. She has little faith in state regulators, whom she believes are too complicit with toxic conditions created by BP’s refinery. Marsh knows what’s at stake.

Lake Michigan, which provides drinking water for 10 million people, will be exposed to new levels of contamination from particulate emissions and huge increases in ammonia and other discharges into the water from the refinery’s tar sands expansion.potent neurotoxin that causes severe fetal damage, impaired motor function, and kidney and respiratory damage in humans. “We don’t want Lake Michigan to become another oil industry sacrifice zone. Quality of life here in Indiana should not suffer for foreign oil profits,” she says.

{More Indigenous Territory has been Claimed by Maps than by Guns}

December 2nd, 2010 6 comments

via [ OurWorld 2.0 ] “Mapping critical politics: a land use expert talks tar sands” By Max Ritts

The late geographer Bernard Nietschmann once observed that “more indigenous territory has been claimed by maps than by guns”. Whether or not you agree that more can be taken back with maps, it is hard to overestimate the role of representations in the shaping of collective understandings and modes of possible intervention in political struggle.

Land use maps can have a number of applications. In many countries, they are prepared by government agencies, for a variety of reasons, or by individual groups and organizations. Often, land use maps are made publicly available for the benefit of those interested in land use trends. These maps can also become important in zoning and property disputes. Read more…

{ TAR SANDS } The Other End of the Pipeline

June 25th, 2010 No comments

The Other end of BP’s pipeline – From the Alberta TAR SANDS to BP’s Whiting Refinery.

via [ Democracy Now ] Indigenous Groups Lead Struggle Against Canada’s Tar Sands

{ BP } How Will BP’s Earth Day Disaster Impact Expansion Plans Here?

May 21st, 2010 No comments

via [ WBEZ – Chicago Public Radio ] Worldview Segment “Will the Gulf Spill Affect BP Investment in Chicago Area? By Michael Puente.

Officials with the oil giant BP say it’s recovering about 3-thousand barrels of oil a day from that huge leak in the Gulf of Mexico. The company is spending millions to stop the leak and may have to shell out billions more in cleanup costs and economic losses to the region.

Closer to home, in Northwest Indiana, there’s concern that all this expense may affect BP’s multi-billion-dollar investment in its Whiting, Indiana refinery, just a few short miles from Chicago’s city limits.

The Gulf catastrophe also has emboldened BP’s local critics about the company’s environmental record here.

WBEZ’s Michael Puente brings us this report from our Northwest Indiana bureau in Chesterton

Michael’s Interview with me comes toward the end at the 6:10 minute point

{ BP } Live / Work Conditions

May 20th, 2010 2 comments

25-years-ago BP abandoned its professional training facilities in Robertsdale, donating the facilities to Calumet College, and moved to a 200-acre LEED certified campus in Naperville. They did so because they could no longer attract professionals to this location due to Quality of Life issues. Quality of Life issues they had a major hand in creating.

Today BP’s professional staff enjoy the healthy work environment of a green campus with ample buffering between office buildings and roadways, while residents adjacent to the BP’s refinery are not so fortunate. Today BP is constructing a whole new facility at their East Chicago / Whiting Refinery to refine the “No Good, Very Bad, Dirty” heavy sour crude from the Alberta Tars Sands and to do so they are constructing 6 cokers directly across the street from the Marktown Historic District where more than 120 children under the age of 18 live, play and sleep.

BP likes to refer to the project as a modernization or retooling project. This is an important distinction to them because to call it what is, a “new facility” or “new construction,” would trigger all sorts of regulatory reviews and permitting, including a new-source review requiring an environmental and health risk assessment. I am not certain if there has ever been a risk assessment done on the impacts the BP refinery has the neighboring communities. I don’t know if that is because they have been grandfathered in or what. I just know that new construction ought to trigger a new source review and that is not happening.

For labor purposes BP calls the project a “maintenance project.” Thus they bypass all sorts of labor rules in terms of pay, scheduling, and work conditions as would be the case for new construction. Let’s make this simple, if I tore down my house to construct a brand new home, I could not go to City Hall seeking a maintenance permit for the new construction. I would be required to seek the proper permits and follow requirements for new construction. This is just one way in which BP has been cutting corners here to save themselves costs. I can’t say what other cost cutting measures BP is making, but I do know they did not do this without the aid of regional leadership. I wonder what our regional leadership is thinking now as we learn more about the costs of BP practices to the gulf region.

This is a good environmental justice example of how benefits-without-risks are created and separated from risks-without-benefits in a free-market economy. Free-market corporations and present day land use policies have a very intentional consequent of accumulating wealth and benefits in one location while clustering risks and blight in another. All too often the geography of separation is as clear as the “Northshore” and “Southshore” designations.

It makes me wonder if anyone working in office complexes similar to the BP complex in Naperville feel any sense of culpability for the lives negatively impacted on the other side of their company’s production line. What about Kraft Foods? what about Grainger? what about Cargill? and U.S. Steel? and ArcelorMittal? Boeing? GATX? or Ryerson?

[ Wikipedia list of Corp HQ in the Chicago Met area ]

Compounding problems, BP extracted an additional $165 million in tax abatements from the mostly poor people of Marktown and East Chicago. They did this behind closed doors, and without a single public hearing, all while lecturing the region on “Good Government.” Despite efforts, residents, who pay the highest property taxes in the state at 7.4%, still do not know that they gave up $165 million to BP. BP accomplished this feat by spreading the wealth to voting districts outside the plume of negative externalities while taking advantage of their partnerships with corrupt local political enterprises under the plume. BP is well known for this form of philanthropic activity and I could go on about “to whom” and “how much” was given, but that will have to be for another post. Let these two examples suffice for now.

Three years ago a $25-million donation from BP capped Phase 1 of a three-part expansion and renovation campaign. Since 2002, BP had agreed to more than $125 million in state and regional legal settlements over pollution problems.

Art museums are often the beneficiaries of largess from corporations wishing to polish their sometimes less-than-gleaming image. (Cigarette, anyone?) Oops.

via [ LA Times ] BP Grand Entrance at LACMA looking not-quite-so-grand

In 2009 BP gave to Napperville for $1 an extremely expensive Hydrogen fueling station with multipliers of positive effects.

View of Lake Michigan {Regional Rats}: Increased Industrial Demand

January 29th, 2010 1 comment

During these difficult economic times there are many losers, including our land, water, air, biology and the local population. This is especially amplified by the more than 40-years since the Industry’s fortunes where coupled with those of the community’s. The results of this decoupling can be horribly seen in the our cultural landscape of existing conditions,

This is what I see when I look at existing conditions and opportunities along the southern shores of Lake Michigan here in East Chicago. Below you will find someone else’s vision which is limited to reindustrialize our lakefront.

Existing Conditions:

  • A Gated Industrial Community
  • Arguably the most polluted waters in the country – the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC)
    • Joerse Beach: most contaminated beach in the Great Lakes and third most in the country.
  • Arguably the most polluted air-shed in the country – Lake county indiana ranking as the 9th most polluted air-shed in the country with the sources of pollution concentrated on East Chicago’s lakefront
  • >80% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated to heavy industry – ~50 of these industrial lands are out of productive use and considered contaminated, e.g., brownfields
    • 14% of East Chicago’s land-use is dedicated Residential – ~17% of these residential properties are apart of a superfund site.
  • Immediate access to the world’s greatest freshwater resource
  • Adjacent to Chicago
  • Diversified land-use and therefore a diversified water-use, air-shed use resulting in a diversified regional economy
And a Plan to address the impairments of existing conditions and realize the opportunities – The Marquette Plan.

In contrast this is what Bill Nagel of the NWI Times, the Forum, Nirpc, and to a real degree many of our environmental groups, such as Save the Dunes, Lee Botts founder of the Lake Michigan Federation, are promoting.

< How dare I include prominent environmentalist as obstacles to environmental, and economic progress>

via [ NWI Times ]

“Blast furnace restart could jump-start 750 jobs – MARKET DEMAND PROMPTS MITTAL TO FIRE UP INDIANA HARBOR WORKS NO. 4 FURNACE” by

Read more…

The Air I Breath {Regional Rats}: 2008 TRI Data (9th of 3140 counties)

December 9th, 2009 No comments

The economic downturn has some benefits for fence-line industrial communities.

View Outside My Window

It is becoming clear that Gitte Laasby is one of the most important journalist in Northwest Indiana. Here again she writes on a subject I am acutely sensitive towards.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “Lake County pollution bad despite reduction” By Gitte Laasby

New toxic release data from EPA shows Lake County industries released the ninth-most pollution in the nation in 2008 — more than 31.5 million pounds.

The high ranking, released Monday, comes despite a 31.1 percent reduction in releases from Lake County industrial plants compared to 2007.

The data, self-reported by the industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory, also shows that two Lake County steel mills are among the nation’s 50 biggest polluters.

U.S. Steel Gary Works is No. 37 with about 12.6 million pounds. ArcelorMittal in East Chicago is No. 46 despite cutting its releases by more than half, from about 25.8 million pounds in 2007 to 11 million pounds in 2008.

By comparison, BP Whiting increased its releases 33.8 percent from nearly 529,000 pounds in 2007 to nearly 708,000 pounds in 2008.

Among the 650 chemicals included in the data are carcinogens and other toxic material that cause adverse health effects and potential environmental harm.

Not all toxic releases are harmful or bad. The numbers include toxic material emitted into the air, discharged into water and disposed of in underground injection wells, but also materials that are landfilled or recycled.

A Post-Tribune analysis of preliminary TRI data published in September concluded that Northwest Indiana industries had reduced their overall pollution by about 30 percent. The most significant reductions were at area steel mills.

At the time, Branch Chief of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Office of Pollution Prevention Jennifer Schick said the reductions were likely a result of production cuts rather than regulatory requirements or voluntary reductions.

On Tuesday, IDEM spokeswoman Amy Hartsock stopped short of drawing such a conclusion.

“Because an analysis has not been done for the 2008 data for Northwest Indiana, in particular, it would be speculation on our part to attribute reductions to the economic downturn,” Hartsock said. “What we do know based on information available to us for the state is that industry is doing a better job reducing pollutants than what the decrease in economic activity would account for.”

Lake County polluters reduced their releases by 31.1 percent compared to 2007, Porter County polluters by 5.8 percent. Lake and Porter counties released 36.9 million pounds of toxics — 17.6 percent of the total 209.3 million pounds released by Indiana facilities.

Four of the 20 counties in the nation that released the most toxic material were in Indiana, according to EPA.

Asking Locally to Someone Speaking Globally

November 24th, 2009 No comments

A few moments ago I asked Al Gore, who was speaking on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight program the following question.

(My question comes at 36:30)

I would like to thank the Vice President for all his work in global warming.

My question has to do with what we can do to support and redevelop our industrial fence-line communities where the negative impacts of industries have created the most severely unsustainable conditions?

I am speaking directly about what has been allowed to occur on the Southern Shores of Lake Michigan (the world’s greatest fresh water resource), in Northwest Indiana. Where BP, the second largest oil refinery in the country is located, along with ArcelorMittal the largest integrated steel mill and U.S. Steel.

The results of this kind of concentration of industry has created such a threatening environment, effecting the land we use, the air we breath and the water we drink and recreate in. Consequently, this is the location of the:


  • Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal, arguably the most polluted waterway in the country (the only waterway to fail every beneficial use).
  • Joerse Beach, the most polluted beach in the Great Lakes and the third in the country


  • Lake County Indiana’s air-shed – ranking as the 7th most polluted county (of 3,100 counties) based on TRI.


  • ~17% of East Chicago’s residential properties are apart of a superfund site, having been build upon an old lead refinery.
  • ~40% of the lands are considered to be brownfields, e.g., out of productive use and perceived to be contaminated.

Al Gore’s disappointing response highlights a serious perceptual divide.

Now that the environmental debate has been made a middle-class issue. Let’s desegregate Gore’s solution and begin to focus on the source of pollution and the mostly poor minority communities that carry the greatest burden of industrial productivity and receive the heaviest concentration of negative effects from these activities. Middle-class America is so worried in how industry has effected their quality of life, that they haven’t hesitated to acknowledge the devastating effects industry continues to have in the communities in which the industry resides.

150-years ago American’s recognized that it wasn’t a good thing to drink from the same waters in which you shit. So in 1856 Chicago broke ground on America’s first sewage system. Today the challenge is to separate industrial waste and pollutants from the the waters we drink.

Here’s a simple solution – Solve the environmental problems for fence-line industrial communities and you solve the problem for middle-class America and the causes of global warming.

The Air I Breath: The Significance of EPA’s Challenge to BP’s Air Permit

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

As you can see I have been a skeptic of the EPA”s recent challenge to BP’s air permit.

<fb comment> a small victory. The EPA has order Indiana to rewrite the permit, essentially discrediting Indiana’s ability to manage their environmental resources. All I see this doing is fortifying a poorly written permit against future disputes. In the end BP is the beneficiary of the action</fb comment>

Noah Hall, author of the Great Lakes Law blog is beginning to clear me of my skepticism.

via [ Great Lakes Law ]

Tar sands oil gives coal some competition for the title of dirtiest fuel.  From mining to refining to burning, tar sands oil is an environmental disaster.  The Great Lakes is becoming a center for refining imported tar sands oil, which comes from western Canada.  As a result, refinery pollution is threatening our water and our communities.  BP’s Whiting Refinery on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana has become a focal point in the legal fight to stop tar sands pollution in the region.  Environmental groups scored a victory earlier this month when the EPA objected to an Indiana permit for air pollution from the refinery.  Meleah Geertsma, an attorney and public health expert with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, was involved in the fight against the air pollution from the tar sands refinery, and wrote this guest post on the victory and what it means in the fight against tar sands pollution in the Great Lakes.

On October 16, in a move that could significantly improve air quality for the Great Lakes region, the U.S. EPA sent a clear message to the oil industry that the federal agency is serious about air pollution from refining – especially the processing of dirty Canadian tar sands crude. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on that day issued an order objecting to a permit granted by Indiana to BP’s Whiting Refinery, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the heart of Administrator Jackson’s order is a concern that numerous potential sources of air pollution are going uncounted and uncontrolled. And that the industry is ignoring or downplaying the air pollution impacts of processing the much heavier, dirtier Canadian tar sands crude, a crude that contains high levels of sulfur and toxic metals.

The BP operating permit was issued to enable a significant increase in the processing of heavy tar sands crude at BP’s Whiting, Indiana facility. However, the permit allowed BP to expand without installing so-called “best available control technology,” on the premise that increases in air pollution from the expansion would be balanced by decreases in pollution from the existing refinery. Such a trade-off of increases and decreases is referred to in air permitting as “netting.”

In response, several environmental groups and individual citizens filed a petition with U.S. EPA, asking the agency to object due to BP’s and the agency’s failure to count numerous potential sources of increased air pollution. Among these sources are increased operations of certain equipment needed to process larger amounts of Canadian crude, as well as greater levels of sulfur and toxics in the crude itself.

Great Lakes Law: Environmental groups and EPA step up the fight against tar sands oil refinery pollution in the Great Lakes.

The Waters I Drink: Environmental report gives NWI {Regional Rats} another bad mark

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Report [ Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clear Water Act ]

Indiana industries discharge 33% more toxins into its waterways than any other state. This is more than the following 26 states combined (Idaho, Delaware, West Virginia, Oregon, Tennessee, South Dakota, Minnesota, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Hawaii, Connecticut, Vermont, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Alaska, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Dist. Of Columbia, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Arizona, Nevada). Together these states have a population of 100.1 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 15-times the population of Indiana.

Indiana also discharges more toxins than Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, California, and Wisconsin Combined. Together these states have a population of 59.8 million people compared to Indiana’s 6.4 million people. That is 10-times the population of Indiana.

However we chunk-out this data (lbs./state GDP, lbs./medium income, lbs./capita) it does not bode well for the residents of Indiana.

Environmental report gives NWI another bad mark :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

The Air I Breath: EPA Orders IDEM’s {Regional Rats} to Rewrite BP Air Permit

October 20th, 2009 No comments

I wonder to what extent the EPA’s recent order that “IDEM rewrite BP’s air permit” can be said to challenge IDEM’s ability to properly discharge its responsibility and manage the state’s environmental resources?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to rewrite part of the air permit for BPs Whiting refinery. EPA said BP?and IDEM left out several sources of air pollution that need to be counted when determining what kind of air pollution control equipment is necessary

EPA: BP permit must be rewritten :: Post-Tribune.

Albert Tar Sands

September 11th, 2009 No comments

Another video about the Tar Sands.

Canada’s Dirty Oil: breaking our addiction from Dirty Oil Sands on Vimeo.

Categories: BP / TAR SANDS, Misc, Tar Sands

Alberta Tar Sands

September 9th, 2009 No comments

via [ h2oil ] :: previous post [ Alberta Tar Sands ]

Energy: Throwing Clean Energy After Dirty

August 5th, 2009 No comments

In business there is a saying “throwing good money after bad.”  The idea is that it is better to cut your losses and go with something else than to continue a losing strategy that drains your resources. for the energy sector it follows that it would be better to cut losses with oil and go with some other alternative, but like our banking sector, the U.S. government seems to have the same boneheaded belief that our commitment to oil is too large to give up on. But unlike the banking system, oil is a limited resource. At some point in the near future America has to move forward with an alternative resource. The question today is at what cost to the environment are we going to continue our relationship with oil?

I found this article this morning about throwing good energy after bad, or clean after dirty. I suppose adding Palin’s name to the title is suppose to appeal to some obvious instinct.

via [ ]

Palin’s Pipeline: Clean Energy for the Lower 48 or Power for the Tar Sands?

by Abby Schultz – Jun 29th, 2009

Environmentalists fear at least half of the relatively clean-burning Alaskan North Slope gas will end up fueling tar sands operations in Alberta, where the pipeline will end, instead of coming to the lower 48 states to replace carbon-intensive coal in power plants. The tar sands operations already consume about 20 percent of Canada’s natural gas, and they are expected to need as much as twice that by 2035.

View of Lake Michigan :: Beach Closings

August 1st, 2009 4 comments

data source: [ Indiana BeachGuard System ]

For the past seven summers our family has been going to Whilhala beach in Whiting for an evening walk or a swim. This summer we got a pool and the weather has been too cool so we haven’t gone until Tuesday. On Tuesday the kids and I decided to go for a nice end of the day swim in the lake after swimming all day in the pool. When we got to the beach we found they had changed their policies and closed the beach area at 6 pm. We couldn’t even take a walk. The kids were disappointed, not only could they not go swimming that evening, but something they have always taken for granted suddenly came to an end. My answer to their cries at that moment was to agree with them – it wasn’t right and I didn’t understand why they closed the beach, but to make it up to them I promised to take them to Indiana Dunes the next day – Thursday.

Map of the Region

Later that evening I found this article in the NWTimes “Vandalism prompts partial closing of Whihala Beach

photo source: John Luke, the Times

Increased gang activity has forced the county to close the Hammond side of Whihala Beach until further notice, a Lake County parks official said Tuesday.

The following day the kids and I got up and prepared for a day at the Dunes. When we got to the park, they were eager to get into the water. I slowed them down a bit by diverting their attention to hiking first.

This is perhaps my favorite view of Lake Michigan from its southern shores. From here you can imagine the beauty that once was throughout this spectacular region.

Once the kids made their way to the beach they were in the water immediately. Unfortunately, it was no more than 5 minutes later that a voice announced that all swimmers had to come out of the water – the water was too polluted for their safety. I could see the frustration race across Marta’s face. Moments before this video she was in tears.

I could not be more disappointed in my community leaders. I am tired of fighting to stop them from ignoring the problems, problems for which they are directly responsible and from which they benefit.

When we got home I realized I had forgotten to ask for a refund, and I found this frontpage article in the Post -Tribune “Local beaches perform poorly in water tests

The Testing the Waters report, released Wednesday by the National Resources Defense Council, shows that beaches in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties had advisories for bacteria or were closed because of bacteria 333 times in 2008, a 56 percent increase from the 213 events in 2007.

That’s up from 111 advisories and closings in 2006.

Overall, 18 percent of the beach samples taken in Indiana last year had bacteria levels higher than the recommended levels. That put the state 28th of the 32 states tested. The report includes samples from any coastal, bay or Great Lakes state.

And then there was this little nugget from Tom Anderson the Director of the Safe the Dunes Council.

Anderson said not knowing the source of the pollutants makes it hard for local officials and groups to fight the problem.

“It’s like where should we focus something if we don’t know where it’s coming from?” Anderson said.

He called for source testing to be included in the study, but that has its own problems. The federal act that requires the testing does not provide funding for source testing, said Amber Finkelstein, a public information officer for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Low-cost solutions for bringing down bacteria levels are available, however, Anderson said. He pointed to Michigan City, which recently prohibited people from feeding birds and bought lids for garbage cans.

<Public Disclosure>

It might be prudent here to mention that “Save the Dunes” recently received a large grant from BP. Oh, and may be I ought to mention that Tom Anderson serves on the Indiana Air pollution Control Board. The same board that recently re-designated Northwest Indiana from a Non-attainment zone to an attainment zone for Sulfur Dioxide. It may also be important to know that BP is presently retooling its Whiting refinery to process the high sulfur product coming out of the Alberta Tar Sands. Anyhow, I always thought Tom meant well.

</Public Disclosure>

Knowing that the water current flows counter clockwise in Lake Michigan, it is not hard to imagine who the source could be, especially with such acutely high levels of bacteria over 600/100ml.

Two views of Burns Harbor: 1) Looking west from the Indiana Dunes State Park, and 2) satellite image

Then there is this very glaring problem. I suppose most communities would have dealt with this in a previous era. Yes that is a known contaminated creek flushing right into the middle of the state beach. When it reaches the lake IDEM expects that “Dilution will be the Solution” to keep bathers safe. We wouldn’t have it any other way in Northwest Indiana. Do you suppose this could have a negative effect on tourism?

Via Save the Dunes [ Dunes Creek Watershed ]

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report “Testing the Waters 2009” tends to take a national perspective when it comes to the problem of identifying the main sources of pollution causing the beach closings. Nationally “Runoff” accounts for 36% of the sources of pollution, with 62% as unknown. However, in Indiana 99% of the source of contamination is considered “unknown.” In my mind this is a criminal disregard for the health of the public.  The same “unknown” used to defend the largest landowners with the greatest intensive uses on Indiana’s Urban Lake Front.

More than 90% of our urban Lakefront is owned by three large industries; BP Whiting – the largest oil refinery in the Midwest, Arcelormittal – the largest integrated Steel Mill in the Country, and U.S. Steel – the second largest Steel Mill. Additionally the big three own the majority rights to our air and watersheds. If there is a major environmental problem, you can generally point to them as the source. They are also effective at using the marginal effects of non-point source pollution such as surface runoff and vehicular pollution to offset criticisms of their discharges. IDEM repeats these same constructed arguments. Granted runoff is a large contributor to the problem, but we also know from whom the contaminants are running.

View of Shoreline Industries from the breakwall at the Hammond Marina

IDEM regulates both industrial and municipal discharges. The cities are not with out fault. They have yet to separate storm water from their sewage systems which contributes to the surface runoff problem. To know the source is easy, to not – is to ignore the problem.

It doesn’t hurt industries interests that the Commissioner of IDEM is Tom Easterly, the environmental Director for Bethlehem Steel (now owned by ArcelorMittal) and Nisource, and who once told a table of Great Lake Commissioners over lunch that:


“there is no need for recreation or commercial fishing in the Great Lakes because there were never any natural fisheries here. The Great Lakes are no better than stocked ponds.”


With one of the highest concentrations of heavy industries in the country, It follows that Indiana’s urban Lake front would also see some of the highest levels of pollution. And in fact the data bares this out. Not only do we know that the indiana Harbor Shipping Canal is the most polluted waterway in the country, but according to the NRDC Study “Testing the Waters 2008” East Chicago’s Jeorse Park Beach ranks third in the nation, and first in Great Lakes, for exceeding Daily National Standards. The geographical center of BP, Mittal and US Steel is East Chicago’s Joerse Park Beach. This make Joerse Park Beach ground zero for some of the highest levels of pollutants in beach waters in the country.

<Clearing the Waters>

The source of pollution is ignorance and we know who the agents of ignorance are. They are self interested community and industrial leaders, who like to pretend that the problems stem from decisions made by “the public.” The source of our pollution is the same as the source of our public corruption. They go hand in hand. The only difference is that the private actors in this dance do not go to jail.

</Clearing the Waters>

– Now, off to the Michigan Dunes

Alberta Tar Sands

June 6th, 2009 4 comments

In the span of Human history, the Alberta Tar Sands project is the largest industrial project initiated by Humans, larger than China’s 3 Gorges Dam. This project is the driving force behind the BP expansion here in East Chicago, and the air I will be expected to breath.

Andrew Nikiforuk’s video is about the best overview of the project I have found.

Some from the energy sector argue that if Americans continue to consume energy at present rate of increase then this is not a project of choice but of necessity. Unfortunately that discussion has not been held in public. What this project does tells us is that the present condition of our energy sector is struggling severely to keep up with the energy demands of the American life style in an environment of diminishing efficient resources. Seven years ago the American energy sector shifted its reliance from the Sweet Crude of Saudi Arabia to the Sour Dirty Crude of the Tar Sands. Since then we have attempted to rely on far inferior energy resources to support our high energy consumptive life style.

With the Tar Sands the energy return on energy investment (EROEI) falls


  • 1-barrel investment to produce 100-barrels of product (for sweet crude)


  • 1-barrel investment to produce 5-barrels of product (for dirty sour crude from the Tar Sands)

The fact that we are shifting our dependence on a resource with such diminished efficiencies reveals some of the true costs of the last sixty years. Other costs include:

  • Deforestation: The tar sands ranks second to the Amazon Rainforest Basin in its rate of deforestation on the planet, and wiping out the ancient Boreal Forest in Canada.
  • Increased CO2 Emissions: The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production.

What I can gather from my minor position is that our obvious neglect of exponential growth and demand has reframed the discussion and limited the realm of possible solutions for our energy needs. A generation of ineffective confrontation with clear evidence puts us at this disadvantage. I realize I need to come to grips with the fact that we live in an era where positive action is a lagging indicator.

Most Americans have no knowledge of this colossal project. They have no knowledge of the reasons why it has been initiated nor the socio-economic and environmental impacts it may have. They just know that the cost of gas has gone up. The issues surrounding the project are only just beginning to enter the public discourse – long after our public and commercial leaders have committed us to this solution.

Recently, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu addressed the issue publicly (not behind closed doors as in Cheney’s Energy Task Force).

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Reuters Global Energy Summit that the balance between the environmental impact from the huge energy resource in northern Alberta and its importance to U.S. energy supply is a complicated one that will require solutions from the industry.

Environmental groups have mounted major campaigns to get the message out to Americans that the expansion of Canada’s oil sands industry threatens to intensify global warming, deforestation and damage to water resources.

“It’s a complicated issue, because certainly Canada is a close and trusted neighbor and the oil from Canada has all sorts of good things. But there is this environmental concern, so I think we’re going to have to work our way through that,” he said. “But I’m a big believer in technology.”

Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the United States and its oil sands represent the biggest deposits of crude outside the Middle East.

The Canadian and Alberta governments as well as the oil industry are going to great lengths to ensure that U.S. energy and environmental policies do not put oil sands-derived crude at a disadvantage in its most important market.

The resource is mined in open pits as well as produced in wells with the aide of steam pumped into the ground. Then it must be processed by upgrading plants into light oil that can be fed into refineries.

There is concern about the large amount of energy required to produce oil sands, Chu said. He said Canadian producers point out they are making strides in extracting the crude “more cleanly.”

Cutting the energy used to extract a barrel of oil sands crude would be “economically good and it will be environmentally much better,” he said.

– via [ Business Insider ]

The Air I Breath: Community Groups Give Notice to BP

June 6th, 2009 No comments

[ NWI Times ]

CROWN POINT | The Hammond-based Calumet Project and the California-based Global Community Monitor, have notified BP Whiting Refinery of their intention to sue under citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Air Act.

The potential lawsuit will press for penalties that could total more than $30 million.

The Air I Breath: BP Cited for High Benzene Releases

June 5th, 2009 1 comment

[ Post Trib ]

By Gitte Laasby, Post-Tribune staff writer (The only legitimate Environmental Reporter in the Region)

For nearly six years, BP’s Whiting refinery emitted cancer-causing benzene at its wastewater treatment plant without proper air pollution control equipment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

BP in Whiting cited for high benzene release :: Local News :: Post-Tribune.

There is a saying “You are what you eat.” But what about what you breath or drink?

What bothers me intensely about this report is that the USEPA allowed these releases to continue for six years before citing BP on such an egregious violation the of the Clean Air Act. That is six years to which MY NEW BORN CHILDREN were chronically exposed. And the USEPA knew every day that they were being exposed and did NOTHING. This is a toxin that we know one part per billion can cause cancer.

Additionally, during the permitting process for the BP Expansion these past several years the USEPA never disclosed these violations, but defended and promoted BP’s clean record of good environmental stewardship in the region. Consequently, East Chicago awarded BP $165 million in tax abatements. All while the EPA held evidence that BP was exposing the residence to such high levels of toxins.

UPDATE (On the Wire):

WASHINGTON | Members of Congress’ Great Lakes Caucus are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to review all of BP’s emissions after reports that the BP Whiting Refinery has been violating clean air standards.

In a letter, 18 members of Congress from Illinois, New York, Wisconsin and Michigan asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to closely examine BP’s emissions.

BP’s facility in Whiting is the largest oil refinery in the Midwest. Its critics say it also is a large source of pollution in the Great Lakes region.

MORE:View the EPA’s violation notice to BP.

Members of the caucus tell Jackson that the Great Lakes are “the crown jewel of our nation” and should be protected. They say the EPA should ensure that BP fully complies with the environmental protection laws and permits.

The EPA on Tuesday cited the Whiting Refinery for violating federal air standards by releasing a cancer-causing toxin in waste from 2003 to 2008, which at times reached 16 times the acceptable limit, EPA officials said.

I find it curious that there are no East Chicago Elected Officials asking for answers? Our Mayor and City Council represent the health and welfare of Citizens of East Chicago who live under the plumb of BP’s violations. And where is the voice of the City’s Health Commissioner on this issue? Of any population East Chicagoan’s are the most exposed and their children the most vulnerable – not the Residents of Illinois, Wisconsin or Michigan. And yet their representatives understand the gravity of the violation and the threat it poses to the health and welfare of the populations they represent. They are the ones asking for answer while East Chicago and Northwest Indiana Elected Officials remain silent.

Why the Silence?

This is a serious violation of the clear Air act and our Elected Officials ought to be associated with the asking for answers.