Whiting spill lingering long after cleanup
The oil spilled from BP’s Whiting refinery appears to have been cleaned up from Lake Michigan, but the political fallout might not be as easy to contain. As Illinois officials seek answers from the company, Indiana officials are quiet.
A refinery malfunction 20 miles southeast of Chicago on March 24 sent between 630 and 1,638 gallons of oil into the lake. The initial estimate by BP was that no more than 18 barrels – 756 gallons – leaked. A U.S. Coast Guard crew found an area of about 5,000 square feet covered in oil last week. It has reportedly been contained.
Lake Michigan is the drinking-water source for millions of Chicago-area residents, which is why U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Mark Kirk, a Republican, saying they are deeply concerned, have requested a meeting with BP executives.
Three weeks ago BP announced a plan to nearly double its processing of heavy crude oil at its BP Whiting Refinery, the Illinois senators wrote in a joint statement. Given today’s events and BP’s decision to increase production, we are extremely concerned about the possibility of a future spill that may not be so easily contained. We plan to hold BP accountable for this spill and will ask for a thorough report about the cause of this spill, the impact of the Whiting Refinery’s production increase on Lake Michigan, and what steps are being taken to prevent any future spill.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also was demanding a full accounting to the public and the city of Chicago of the damage that was done: how much, what the cleanup efforts were, how comprehensive they have been and what actions the company will take to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
The Chicago Sun-Times noted the absence of Indiana officials among those asking for information about the spill, which could have endangered some Hoosiers’ drinking supply.
Indeed, Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, Republican Sen. Dan Coats and Democratic U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky have yet to issue any statements on the accident at the Indiana-based refinery.
Coats, coincidentally, released a column Monday criticizing the federal government for regulating too many successful Indiana employers out of business.
Coats cited the Environmental Protection Agency’s water regulations as an example of overregulation.