U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) today sent a letter to the Regional Administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Region V, Mary A. Gade, asking for a comprehensive analysis of the draft air and construction permits that were recently issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for the proposed expansion of BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana.
The Illinois members were surprised to see that permits were already being issued for the refinery - given that Indiana is still working out a revised State Implementation Plan that is supposed to set higher emissions standards. In today's letter the Illinois members asked the EPA to explain whether or not the recently issued draft air permits will meet the new standards as outlined in the revised State Implementation Plan.
"We look forward to EPA's assurances that both permits meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act and are consistent with the goal of reducing air pollution as far as technologically possible," the Illinois members wrote. "EPA's oversight role is critical as we work together to improve the health of the Lake Michigan region."
On February 5, IDEM published a notice of public comment period for a combined permit for BP's Whiting facility. The combined permit provides for both a state construction permit and a Title 5 air permit for plant operation. This action begins a 30-day comment period for the public, BP, and EPA to respond to the draft permits. Once the comment period is over, IDEM will review the comments and release a formal response to comments at which point the EPA will have 45 days to review and provide formal comments to IDEM on the revised Title 5 clean air permit.
text of letter below
February 12, 2008
The Honorable Mary A. Gade
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5
77 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
Dear Administrator Gade:
We are writing today to request that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct a comprehensive analysis of the draft air and construction permits that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) issued this week for the proposed expansion of BP's oil refinery in Whiting, Indiana.
Our concerns are twofold. One, the permit combines authority to construct with authority to operate. Yet both authorities rest on significant modifications. Two, it appears that IDEM has set an aggressive timeline to issue a final permit. While it is certainly possible to make determinations on the impact of significant plant modifications to regulated air quality standards and to do so in a compressed timeframe, a thorough EPA review of IDEM's decisions is clearly merited.
We were surprised to see IDEM act on clean air permits, given the ongoing revision of Indiana's State Implementation Plan. We understand that the proposed State Implementation Plan will set new air quality standards for particulate matter. Are the draft air permits issued this week subject to the new standards? Can you clarify what standards IDEM is using to approve modifications for both construction and for operation?
We look forward to EPA's assurances that both permits meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act and are consistent with the goal of reducing air pollution as far as technologically possible. EPA's oversight role is critical as we work together to improve the health of the Lake Michigan region.
Richard J. Durbin
Member of Congress