By Manuel Quinones
The Great Lakes' last operating coal-fired ferry will stay in business under an agreement between U.S. EPA and Lake Michigan Carferry Inc.
The S.S. Badger -- which ferries travelers between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis. -- had until December to stop dumping its combustion ash into Lake Michigan. Managers and supporters on Capitol Hill thought the deadline could mean the end for the service.
But EPA, the company and the Justice Department announced they had filed a settlement in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan for the Badger to continue operating.
"The resolution of this issue has taken far longer than we had hoped, but the end result has been worth the effort," Lake Michigan Carferry CEO Bob Manglitz said. "This agreement will save the jobs of our 200-plus employees as well as many other jobs in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin."
As part of the proposed consent decree, Lake Michigan Carferry agrees to stop dumping ash from the Badger by the 2014 sailing season by installing an ash-retention system. The company must also pay a $25,000 fine for mercury dumping violations.
"The Badger is not merely a piece of living history, it is a very active and very vital part of Michigan's economy and remains a major source of job creation and economic growth for both Ludington and Manitowoc on the other side of Lake Michigan. It contributes $35 million to the local economies annually, increases tourism and provides a major boost for small businesses along the lakeshore.
"Too often local businesses are forced to close their doors due to Washington's heavy-handed regulatory bureaucracy," said Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), who last year pushed for a legislative measure to save the ferry.
He said, "I applaud Lake Michigan Carferry for successfully navigating the bureaucratic fog and overcoming the unprecedented regulatory hurdles placed before them."
EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman said, "The enforcement agreement reduces the discharge of coal ash more quickly and with greater oversight than would occur during the appeal of a decision to issue or deny a permit -- a process that often takes several years."
The public will have 30 days to comment before court approval.