Governor Mitch Daniels has asked the former dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, James Barnes, to spearhead a review of the state and federal laws about Great Lakes water quality and the state's process to implement those laws.
In June, the state Department of Environmental Management issued a new wastewater treatment permit to British Petroleum's (BP) Whiting facility. The permit is more restrictive than previous permits but it allows BP to increase the amount of total suspended solids and ammonia in treated wastewater 3,500 feet from the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The company met all state and federal requirements, and U.S. EPA approved the permit as fully consistent with current federal and state water quality laws. However, there has been widespread criticism of the permit since its issuance.
"Hoosiers love Lake Michigan as much as anyone and would never knowingly do anything to endanger its health. That goes doubly for the conscientious state environmental employees who studied the BP permit application," said Daniels.
"Indiana's standards are tougher than the federal rules, and, as far as we know, fully protective of the lake's water quality. On my order, we rechecked the science on this point, and reconfirmed our staff findings with the EPA," said the governor. "But as some have continued to question that judgment, I am seeking yet another opinion about the scientific adequacy of the standards our state has been using these last 10 years."
The governor has asked Barnes to:
* Conduct a review of the current federal and state laws concerning Great Lakes water quality and permitting, including assessment of whether these laws are sufficiently protective of the Great Lakes system.
* Assess IDEM's actions to implement those laws in BP's permit, both in the form of discharge limits and other requirements such as monitoring, biological testing and assessment.
* Evaluate the impact of BP's proposed discharge on Lake Michigan's quality and uses as a source of drinking water, recreation, and aquatic life.
Daniels asked Barnes to complete the review within six weeks. Barnes said he will contact other experts, as needed, to help him conduct the review.
"The state's standards and permitting process that have been in place since the Bayh Administration in the mid-1990s are suddenly the subject of skepticism," said Daniels. "Although I have full confidence in IDEM's staff and leadership, I believe it is necessary to have a credible, independent evaluation of the permitting decision and outcome."
Barnes is the former dean of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University where he currently teaches. He has testified and consulted on a number of environmental matters and currently serves as the chair of the EPA's Environmental Finance Advisory Board. He helped form the EPA, was the first chief of staff to then Administrator Bill Ruckelshaus, and later served the agency in other capacities. He previously was the vice president of America's Clean Water Foundation as well as a trustee of the National Institute for Global Environmental Change (NIGEC).
BP sought the water discharge permit after announcing in 2006 that it would invest $3 billion into an expansion of its Whiting facility to process crude oil from Canada. IDEM followed all normal procedures in issuing the permit to BP; in fact, the permit is more stringent than normally would be required by federal law because Indiana has designated Lake Michigan as an outstanding state resource deserving special protection.