The company is taking notice of regional opposition to any increase in the discharge of pollutants into Lake Michigan from the giant refinery, located near Chicago.
Politicians across the Great Lakes region say they are getting many calls from fearful residents, and a radio ad paid for by political funds from Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Rahm Emanuel, both Illinois Democrats, criticizes BP's plan.
Durbin and Emanuel praised today's decision by BP. “This is the news we have been waiting for - a watershed moment for Lake Michigan, the lawmakers said in a joint statement. 'Today, BP America announced that they will not increase dumping in our lake. They realized a good business decision is a good environmental decision.'
'The people of Chicago and every person who spoke out against the dumping had their voices heard. We sent a message to BP that the pollution of one of our national treasures will not be tolerated,' they said. 'Together, we put pressure on a company to do what is right and they responded.'
'This is the source of drinking water for nearly eight million people here at the south end of Lake Michigan,' says Lee Botts, founder of the Lake Michigan Federation. 'The Great Lakes cannot be a sink for pollution and survive to be the source for drinking water and the habitat for life in the lake that we want it to be.'
BP has obtained regulatory approval to increase average daily discharge limits for ammonia from 1,030 to 1,584 pounds per day and for total suspended solids from 3,646 to 4,925 pounds per day to modernize the Whiting refinery and increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude oil it can process.
The $3.8 billion refinery expansion is designed to increase the amount of Canadian heavy crude processed from 30 to 90 percent and also creates the capacity to increase production of clean fuels by 1.7 million gallons a day.
'We have participated in an open and transparent permitting process with the state of Indiana and obtained a valid permit that meets all regulatory standards and is protective of water quality and human health. Even so, ongoing regional opposition to any increase in discharge permit limits for Lake Michigan creates an unacceptable level of business risk for this $3.8 billion investment,' said BP America Chairman and President Bob Malone.
BP America notified the state of Indiana of its decision late yesterday afternoon and reiterated its dedication to the proposed refinery expansion.
Malone said the company will seek new technology to allow the increase in capacity while maintaining the lower discharge limits.
'We're not aware of any technology that will get us to those limits but we'll work to develop a project that allows us to do so,' he said. 'If necessary changes to the project result in a material impact to project viability, we could be forced to cancel it.'
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said, 'BP made a difficult business decision, one that means this project may not happen or be moved to another state. I hope, along with everyone else, that someone discovers a new technology in the next year or so that enables BP to move ahead, meaning Hoosiers would get the benefits of this enormous investment - at the job site and the gas pump.'
BP has agreed to participate with the Purdue Calumet Water Institute and the Argonne National Laboratory in a joint effort to identify and evaluate emerging technologies with the potential to improve wastewater treatment across the Great Lakes.
Malone announced today that BP will provide a $5 million grant to Purdue University to help underwrite the research effort.
During the next 18 months, BP will continue to seek issuance of other permits, continue project design and explore options for operating within the lower discharge limits.
'We are committed to this project. It is important for the nation, it is important for the Midwest, and it is important to BP and to the thousands of BP employees in the State of Indiana,' Malone said. 'We are going to work hard to make this project succeed.'