Trash the Great Lakes? GOP Has an App for That

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives recently did the Great Lakes a huge disservice.

The GOP-led House passed a Coast Guard authorization bill that contained two bad amendments: Weak ballast water regulations, which will allow ocean freighters to carry more invasive species into the Great Lakes; and an exemption that will allow the coal-powered SS Badger ferry to continue dumping 500 tons of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan every summer.

It’s bad enough that House members from outside of the Great Lakes basin supported legislation that would harm the world’s largest source of surface freshwater. For GOP lawmakers from the Great Lakes region to support the legislation was just shameful.

And yet, some lawmakers boasted about sponsoring amendments that authorize the SS Badger’s use of Lake Michigan as a landfill for coal ash containing lead, mercury and other toxins. This is the same Lake Michigan that is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which was recently voted The Most Beautiful Place in America.

Legislation approved by the U.S. House of Representatives will allow the SS Badger to continue dumping tons of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The pollution-permitting exemption for the SS Badger was cosponsored by Republican Congressmen Tom Petri, of Wisconsin and Bill Huizenga of Michigan.
Huizenga, whose district includes a large stretch of the Lake Michigan coast, said the federal rules requiring the Badger to stop dumping its coal ash into the lake by 2012 were “an example of how federal government regulations threaten small businesses.” Read his statement here.

His claim doesn’t hold water.

The Badger’s owners agreed in 2008 to install a cleaner fuel system and end the coal ash dumping in 2012. But when the company didn’t get a $14 million federal grant to pay for a new propulsion system, it hired lobbyists to secure an exemption to the federal regulations.

Huizenga said the Badger exemption would protect a ship that is vital to the economy of the communities where it docks.

Here’s a news flash: A healthy Lake Michigan is far more valuable to those communities — and the entire region — than one antiquated, polluting ferry.

The House bill now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Hopefully, the Senate or President Obama will sink this bad legislation.

It’s ironic that Rep. Huizenga’s Web page features a scenic photo of Lake Michigan waves crashing against the lighthouse in Grand Haven.

The photo implies that Huizenga cherishes the Great Lakes. I just can’t comprehend how someone who treasures the lakes would support the SS Badger’s cynical, wanton pollution of Lake Michigan.