The BP oil disaster in the Gulf Coast is now the most massive spill in world history. The negative impact of oil refining operations is being felt not just along the Gulf Coast, but right next door in Whiting, Indiana as well. The BP refinery in Whiting is polluting our air and water, and threatens the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. It is refining oil made from tar sands, one of the dirtiest forms of crude in the world, and is one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes.
While the eyes of the world are focused on the unmitigated disaster along the Gulf Coast, there is a growing danger right here in Illinois. BP's planned expansion of its Whiting, IN refinery -- already the 6th largest polluter in the greater Chicago area -- threatens the clean, cheap, and plentiful Lake Michigan drinking water, one of our region's greatest natural resources.
As Capitol Hill Blue reported, BP's attack on the Great Lakes comes in three parts:
a) BP wants to drill under Lake Michigan, almost a mile below the lake's bottom. Think of the Gulf leak, but with fresh, not salt water.
b) BP is the 6th largest polluter in the Chicago area. With its new Whiting refinery capacity, its pollution output will increase by 40%.
c) BP deliberately pollutes Lake Michigan with benzene & mercury. Remnants from the tar sands refining process will be far, far worse.
The $3.8 billion dollar Whiting expansion project is designed to refine dirty Canadian oil shale and tar sands. The EPA estimates that greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 40% and add huge amounts of nitrogen oxides (NO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (C0), and particulate matter less than 10 microns (PM10) to our air.
To make matters worse, according to Capitol Hill Blues, "BP got permission from Indiana's Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) to increase the amounts of pollution it could dump into Lake Michigan. BP is now free to take as much water as it needs, and can dump all the pollution it creates." The Whiting refinery already releases huge amounts of toxins, including benzene and mercury, into our drinking water.
BP is purposely releasing polluted water right near the Chicago water intakes. In 2009, the EPA cited the BP Whiting refinery with emitting cancer-causing benzene at its wastewater treatment plant without proper air pollution control equipment.
BP, which markets itself as environmentally friendly, must be held accountable for their actions. Federal officials say cleaning up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has already cost the government $87 million, making it the third-most expensive cleanup effort in the nation's history. Rainbow PUSH Coalition will be protesting these unsafe and ecologically damaging practices at BP.
BP says it's time to get beyond petroleum. We say it's time to get beyond BP and protect our environment.