Durbin Announces His Opposition to S.S. Badger Effort to Secure New EPA Permit

Calls company's plan to clean up operations "far-fetched" and unrealistic

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - In a letter to the owner of the S.S. Badger, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that he will actively oppose the company's efforts to secure a permit that would allow the S.S. Badger to continue dumping over 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year.  Durbin's announcement comes after his meeting with the President and CEO of the Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Robert Manglitz, who proposed a plan to convert the S.S. Badger to liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the hopes of securing a new permit to continue operations. 


“The four years since receiving your current EPA permit have been more than enough time for you to develop a credible plan for eliminating coal ash discharge,” Durbin wrote.  “All you could produce for me was far-fetched LNG theory which has no chance to actually become a reality.  Because of your continued, long-term refusal to clean up your dangerous operations, I will actively oppose your new permit application.


Last year, in a series of articles, the Chicago Tribune drew attention to the S.S. Badger, the only coalfired ferry still operating in the United States.  As the ship travels from its home port of Ludington, MI, to Manitowoc, WI, it dumps 509 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year – a quantity greater than the total waste dumped annually by the 125 other largest ships operating on the Great Lakes. The coal ash contains arsenic, lead, and mercury, all of which can cause cancer when consumed in drinking water, cause serious damage to fish populations, and poison fish that are part of our food supply.


Under an agreement negotiated between the owners of the SS Badger and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the current EPA vessel general permit gives the SS Badger a December 2012 deadline to retrofit the ferry with a new boiler that would prevent further coal ash dumping.  In an attempt to circumvent these standards the owners of the S.S. Badger have attempted to secure both the designation of the SS Badger as a National Historic Landmark and legislative language that would exempt “vessels of historic significance” from EPA regulation of discharge. 


In November, after meeting with the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Durbin called on Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee to oppose efforts to protect the SS Badger from having to comply with EPA standards. 


The text of the letter is below.