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Great Lakes Blog

Michigan City Pier & lighthouse

Residents Outraged About BP Permit

Jul 16, 2007

By Gitte Laasby, Post-Tribune staff writer

BP will face no appeals of its new wastewater permit, which allows the company to discharge 1,600 pounds of ammonia and 4,900 pounds of sludge into Lake Michigan per day.

Area environmental group Save the Dunes decided it didn't have the time or money for the legal appeal process. Many of the 40 other Hoosiers who protested the permit didn't know they had the option.

Concerned residents are outraged, saying the Indiana Department of Environmental Management skipped part of the required process. They say the agency never sent them a response to their e-mails, and didn't tell them the permit was issued or that they had the option to appeal it.

BP's final permit was issued on June 21. The 18-day appeal period ended Monday.

Shannon Sabel of West Lafayette, who submitted comments to IDEM, said she was appalled the agency didn't listen to protests and that she was not notified of its decision.

"I'm very upset about the fact that IDEM allowed this to go through," Sabel said. "What is it going to take to stop people from allowing this kind of pollution?"

IDEM's "Guide for Citizen Participation" states the agency "will" send a notice of its decision to issue a permit, along with information on how to appeal the decision, to anyone who submitted public comments.

IDEM did post replies to all comments in a document located on the agency's Web site, www.in.gov/idem/permits/water/wastewater/public_notice.

IDEM spokesperson Steve Polston said the agency also informed people who commented as it was required to do.

"Yes, we sent notices to people who asked to be notified of the final issuance of the permit," he said.

Polston said a staff person also told him, "Yes, of course, we notified the people who made comments."

Rudolph M. Zajac of Schererville disputed that. He e-mailed IDEM during the public comment period but said he never heard directly from IDEM about the decision and didn't know he could appeal.

"I saw something in the newspaper about it, that they had granted BP the permission to move ahead. I assumed that was the end of it," Zajac said.

So did Highland resident Dave Helms. "I was certainly not notified. I didn't know about the appeals process. I certainly would have commented and perhaps even appeared in person," he said, adding appeals may not have changed BP's final permit. "Nothing's going to get done because they're absolutely vital to the Midwest and Whiting. But it's not right they can bypass regulations."

Tom Anderson, executive director of the Save the Dunes Council, said without IDEM's direct notification that a permit had been issued, people have no way of knowing when the appeal period starts. And Save the Dunes did not have the resources to appeal.

"We feel there are things that could have been better" in the permit, Anderson said. "My thoughts personally were, there would have been grounds to challenge them. But I also realize they can be time- and resource-intensive. We have to determine from our organization if we were equipped to do that."

Karen Willever, administrative assistant in IDEM's Office of Environmental Adjudication, said it's too late for residents to appeal the wastewater permit now.

Anderson said he hopes people will be involved earlier in the process of BP's new air permit variance. IDEM will hold a public hearing on it Aug. 9.

 

     
     

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