Senators Met Today With BP America President John Minge to Discuss Last Month’s Oil Spill Into Lake Michigan at the Company’s Whiting, Ind., Refinery
CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–April 25, 2014. U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today met with BP America Chairman and President John Minge to voice serious concerns over last month’s spill at the company’s Whiting, Ind. facility. Noting that the plant recently expanded to double the amount of heavy oil sands it processes and that last month’s spill was just the most recent in a string of environmental issues it has caused, the Senators said BP must take steps to prevent any further harm to Lake Michigan or nearby residents.
“From drinking water to transportation and recreation, Lake Michigan is crucial to our way of life,” said Senator Kirk. “There is no room for error with our natural resources and BP needs to prove it is capable of protecting our lake from further pollution and contamination.”
“BP recently expanded its Whiting facility to process more heavy, dirty oil, and last month’s spill into Lake Michigan was just the latest in a series of environmental incidents following that expansion,” Senator Durbin said. “Senator Kirk and I wanted to meet with President Minge to hold BP accountable for cleaning up this mess and to let him know that we will not stand for further harm to our cherished lake. Lake Michigan is our city’s greatest asset, and it’s time for BP to step up and become better neighbors to the people of Chicago.”
On March 24, a mechanical glitch in BP’s refinery in Whiting caused up to 1,638 gallons of crude oil to be released into Lake Michigan. The glitch occurred at the refinery’s largest crude distillation unit, the centerpiece of a recent renovation which allows the facility to process more crude oil from Canadian tar sands. That oil is heavier and dirtier than the domestic crude which had previously been the plant’s primary focus.
Following the spill, Kirk and Durbin requested today’s meeting with BP to discuss the company’s clean-up efforts. Today, the Senators addressed some questions about the spill that have gone unanswered, specifically asking about what BP has done to ensure its new equipment does not lead to any further spills, and what steps the company has taken to ensure drinking water in nearby cities has not been contaminated. Lake Michigan provides drinking water to more than 7 million people and several Illinois towns draw their water from locations near last month’s oil spill.
Last month’s spill is the latest in a string of incidents at BP’s Whiting facility that have occurred in the last year. Last June, the company was almost given a new permit that would have allowed it to continue dumping mercury into Lake Michigan at 17 times the legal limit. Sen. Kirk sent a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe urging the agency to review BP’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to ensure Lake Michigan is protected from harmful mercury pollution discharged by the Whiting refinery. The final permit reduced the amount of mercury BP is allowed to dump.
Since his election to Congress, Kirk has consistently fought to protect the Great Lakes from harmful pollution. In July 2007, the Chicago Tribune published a report on BP’s efforts to increase pollution in Lake Michigan and expand its plant in Whiting. Then-Representative Kirk led the charge with other federal officials to stop the BP Refinery from dumping increased amounts of pollutants such as ammonia and Total Suspended Solids into the wastewater. Kirk also led a delegation of 19 other Members of Congress in writing to the EPA urging a formal review of the permit issued by Indiana. That same summer, the House of Representatives passed a resolution Kirk cosponsored that condemned BP for degrading the Great Lakes.
“History makes it clear that BP has a lot of work to do improving the safety and reliability of its facility at Whiting,” Senator Durbin said. “I hope President Minge will take what he heard today and start BP on a new road towards responsible operation on Lake Michigan.”