Durbin: Language Protecting Coal-Fired S.S. Badger Stripped from House Passed Bill

Durbin led effort to block language that would have allowed S.S. Badger to continue dumping over 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the House of Representatives passed a bill to reauthorize the US Coast Guard – the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act – which is now clean of any language that would have allowed the S.S. Badger to continue dumping over 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year.  The original House bill included language that would have exempted the S.S. Badger from long-standing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of discharge.  The new version passed by the House earlier today must be passed in the Senate before being signed into law by President Obama. 


“I urge the Senate to quickly take up and pass this legislation.  Once that is done, the owners of the S.S. Badger will know there will be no Congressional rescue.  It’s time to end their excuses, clean up their operation and stop dumping coal ash in Lake Michigan,” said Durbin. 


Last year, in a series of articles, the Chicago Tribune drew attention to the S.S. Badger, the only coal-fired 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 S.S. 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 March 2012, Durbin announced that he will actively oppose the company’s efforts to secure a permit shortly after 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 in the hopes of securing a new permit to continue operations. 


In November 2011, 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.