Alliance for the Great Lakes
Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008
For Immediate Release
Public Comment Sought on Indiana's Draft Pollution Rules
Indiana regulators are accepting public comment through Nov. 14 on proposed rules that would, among other things, allow industry to increase the amount of pollution they discharge to Lake Michigan and other state waters.
Indianas new regulations must protect outstanding state waters like Lake Michigan from new and increased pollution, said Lyman Welch, manager of the Alliances Water Quality Program.
The draft rules are being debated against the backdrop of last years public outcry over the states issuance of a wastewater permit that would have allowed British Petroleums Whiting, Ind. refinery to increase its discharge of pollutants into Lake Michigan.
The BP permit drew concern that Indiana's law doesnt do enough to protect water quality. An independent review, prompted by the permit, found Indiana's inconsistent statewide policies concerning the antidegradation of water quality had led to some of the confusion about the permit.
BP ultimately pledged to live within its earlier pollution limits. Meanwhile, other large Indiana polluters -- such as U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal -- continue to operate with outdated discharge limits until the state has completed its new antidegradation rules.
The federal Clean Water Act requires states to update their water quality standards at least every three years, and to develop and adopt statewide antidegradation policies for water quality standards. Indiana's current antidegradation requirements were developed under the Great Lakes Initiative of the 1990s and apply only to the Lake Michigan basin.
Among other requirements, the federal law mandates that before any new or increased water pollution is allowed, a company must show that those discharges are a necessary part of important economic or social benefits for the community.
Indianas newly proposed rules, put forth by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, contain numerous exemptions that would allow companies to avoid justifying new or increased discharges, however. Included are instances where such discharges are considered minor.
Welch notes that industry and the Alliance have widely varying views on how much increased pollution should be allowed through the exemption.
Indiana should focus on reducing pollution to Lake Michigan by requiring strict justification by anyone who seeks to increase pollution above background levels, he said.
The draft regulations broadened to include all of the states waters -- are being debated by a work group that includes IDEM staff, as well as representatives from industry, municipalities, the Alliance and other environmental groups.
The Alliance and its partners contend there should be no degradation to Lake Michigan beyond the background level of a pollutant unless its deemed necessary to accommodate important social or economic development.
Other issues raised by the environmental groups:
* The rules must require that all new or increased discharges that exceed background pollution levels in Lake Michigan undergo thorough antidegradation review and justification.
* Indiana waters designated as Outstanding Waters, such as Lake Michigan, deserve greater protection from new and increased pollution.
The Alliance, in conjunction with its partners, will submit comments to IDEM detailing their recommendations. Welch urged that the public submit comments to IDEM supporting the concerns of the environmental coalition.
For more information on IDEMs proposed rule, see the public notice at: http://www.in.gov/legislative/iac/20081015-IR-327080764FNA.xml.pdf.
To Submit Public Comments:
By mail, address to:
Mail Code 65-40
Office of Water Quality
Indiana Department of Environmental Management
100 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2251
By fax: 317-232-8406.
In person: 12th floor reception desk, Office of Water Quality, Indiana Government Center North, 100 North Senate Avenue, Room N1255, Indianapolis, Ind.
Deadline: Public comments must be received by Nov. 14.
Alliance for the Great Lakes