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In response to an outburst of protests from politicians and local citizens, BP and regulators in Indiana have agreed to reconsider a new permit that will allow the company to increase the amount of waste it dumps into Lake Michigan.
Presently, the oil company and state of Indiana have not committed to a solution. However, this is the first time they have expressed that the permit may counter efforts to clean up the lake. The new permit will allow BP to dump more ammonia and suspended solids into Lake Michigan as part of a $3.8 billion expansion that will enable the refinery to process Canadian crude oil. According to the Chicago Tribune officials supported the permit because it would create 80 permanent jobs and 2,000 construction jobs.
Federal and state regulators have said that they don’t have the legal authority to rescind the permit, but complaints from the public have now prompted them to reconsider.
Chicago Tribune reports that the permit allows BP to dump an average of 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of suspended solids into Lake Michigan every day. This amount does not exceed the maximum allowed under federal guidelines.
BP is also exempt from meeting tough limits placed on mercury pollution for the next five years.
Stephen Elbert, vice chairman of BP America, told Chicago Tribune that the refinery would not be releasing more pollution into lake until the expansion project is finished in 2011.
Though the Environmental Protection Agency did not originally see a problem with the permit, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) called for congressional hearings into the BP permit and how it squares with provisions in the Clean Water Act.
In addition, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, filed a formal appeal in Indiana asking a state environmental judge to block the permit.
At a meeting at the U.S. EPA’s Chicago office, a top BP executive agreed to review suggestions from Mayor Richard Daley, the EPA and environmental groups about technologies that could reduce pollution from the company's refinery located in Whiting, Ind.