It looks like our friends at BP are up to their old tricks again. This time, though, the oil being spilled isn’t in the Gulf of Mexico, where the company’s cost-cutting measures in 2010 led to the largest oil spill in recorded history, but in Lake Michigan, the largest repository of fresh water on the surface of the Earth. The spill happened last night at the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, where the company processes crude oil from Canadian tar sands. A spokesman for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management told reporters that the leak was stopped by 1:00 AM this morning, but it’s still unclear how much crude oil was released into Lake Michigan.
When asked how much oil had been dumped into Lake Michigan, according to the Chicago Tribune, BP spokesman Scott Dean “declined to say.”
I’m not sure how a company can get away with not answering a question like, “How much poison did you pump into the drinking water of 7 million Chicagoans?,” but I guess, when you’re BP, you can do what you want. If we made nothing else clear after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it’s that we don’t hold corporations responsible for their actions, regardless of how egregious they may be.
As of right now, it’s too early to say just how bad this is. It could, I suppose, be relatively minor by oil spill standards. Given that the Whiting refinery processes 405,000 barrels per day, though, it could also be incredibly bad for the health of the Great Lake, and the future of our planet.
Worst of all, this is our doing. We had an opportunity after the Deepwater Horizon disaster to hold BP accountable and push for substantial changes. We, however, chose to take them at their word. And now we’re paying the price.
One last thing… If the Whiting refinery sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve discussed it here before. Here are two clips from those earlier posts.
…I would think that we here in Michigan might have a case against the state of Indiana, which, if you can believe it, just gave BP the go-ahead to dump more ammonia and toxic, heavy metal sludge into Lake Michigan. Here’s a clip from the Chicago Tribune:
“The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.
Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environmental laws to clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion that will allow the company to refine heavier Canadian crude oil. They justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.
Under BP’s new state water permit, the refinery — already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes — can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals.”
…(I)t’s not hard to see how this happens, given that BP buys politicians… Here, with more on that, is a quote from our friend Juan Cole: “The Indiana legislature passed these laws because of ‘legislative capture.’ That phenomenon occurs when an industry that is supposed to be regulated by a legislature instead pays so much for political campaigns that it captures the members and proves able to write the legislation affecting its interests. Legislative capture explains almost everything that is wrong with America today, from the wars to the difficulty in expanding health care, and from inaction on climate change to the high price of prescription drugs.”
The irony is, at this very moment, the leaders of BP America live their lives without fear while our country devotes its considerable resources to finding Edward Snowden and brining him to justice… I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time that we reevaluate our definition of “treason.”
And, lastly, here’s a little something that I shared on Facebook last summer about the Whiting plant. (For what it’s worth, I wasn’t joking.)