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British Petroleum in 2007 proposed and received approval from Indiana regulators for increases in pollution levels from BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery. The proposal quickly became a bellwether for similar refinery expansion proposals for the Great Lakes basin and beyond, all as a result of the increased use of heavy crude oil derived from tar sands in Canada. The use of these stocks, it was found, was becoming economical to tap and would ease national security concerns because much of the United States' oil comes from unstable Middle Eastern countries.
The Alliance is now monitoring proposed refinery expansions in the Great Lakes to ensure they are conducted in a manner that reduces and ultimately eliminates pollution over time and enhances quality of coastal habitat consistent with the federal Clean Water Act, key outcomes of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration strategy and Great Lakes Water Quality Initiative standards. Concerned about global warming ramifications from the expansions, the Alliance is also partnering with leading organizations to address these pollutants. The region will require clean energy to support sustained economic development. Wind energy, both onshore and offshore, could be a portion of this energy requirement.
BP refinery-Whiting, Ind.BP was issued a permit in the summer of 2007 for its refinery expansion, which allowed increased water pollution from total suspended solids and ammonia and put off tighter mercury limits for five years. After the Alliance and many others objected, BP agreed to abide by the lower limits in its old permit. BP deserves credit for researching mercury control technologies and agreeing to limit its discharges of ammonia and suspended solids, but several deficiencies remain with the proposed BP discharge permit -- among them that new mercury controls are not yet installed. With help and support from NRDC, Save the Dunes and other partners, the Alliance sent a joint letter in April 2013 urging the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to fix several deficiencies in BP’s proposed discharge permit. In September 2013, Indiana regulators reissued the water discharge permit to BP’s Whiting refinery. The permit tightens controls on mercury pollution from the plant, but could do more to protect the waters of Lake Michigan. Chicago’s Southeast Side is the latest community to be affected by the black dust blown through the neighborhoods from petcoke piles that tower as high as five stories and are produced as a byproduct by BP’s Whiting refinery. Along with other environmental and social justice groups in the area, we urge the companies storing petcoke to act quickly to control the dust produced by the piles, and to find alternate storage that protects the nearby communities and the Calumet River from further pollution. The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were on site at the BP Refinery in Whiting, Ind. to oversee cleanup operations following an oil spill into Lake Michigan that BP reported on March 24, 2014. The spill underscores the Alliance’s concerns about plans to ship tar sands across the Great Lakes to refineries.
Marathon-Detroit, Mich.Marathon's Detroit refinery began construction of its expansion project in June 2008 and completed the upgrade in late 2012. Unlike BP, Marathon's refinery does not discharge directly into the Great Lakes, but pretreats its waste and sends it to the city’s system for further treatment before it is discharged into the lake. The Alliance submitted comments about the impact of Marathon's expansion on the city's wastewater discharge; state officials responded that they expected Marathon to comply with regulations. In March 2013, the Alliance investigated the potential threat from large petroleum coke piles produced by the Marathon refinery and stored near the Detroit River. Following pressure from the Alliance, our partners and site inspections by Michigan DEQ, one storage company -- Nicholson Terminal and Dock – chose to exit the petroleum coke storage business in June 2013. The other major storage operation – Detroit Bulk Storage – is now applying for an air permit from Michigan DEQ. This means the site will undergo a full permit analysis, including emissions rate estimations, modeling demonstration and impact analysis. Even if no water quality threat exists, it is the Alliance's position that this storage is not compatible with the city’s plans for future economic revitalization along the Detroit River.
Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. (formerly Murphy Oil)-Superior, Wis.No formal plans have been submitted, but a similar proposed expansion was studied at this refinery that would likely require use of additional land. As the refinery is surrounded by wetland areas, it is possible that the proposal could harm around 300-500 acres of wetlands. This is a concern because wetlands serve an important role as the kidneys of the Great Lakes and also provide habitat for many creatures. The Superior refinery was recently purchased by Calumet Specialty Products Partners, L.P. The new owners are now exploring building an expanded docking facility to ship tar sands crude oil across the Great Lakes using tanker vessels.
BP-Toledo, OhioIn Toledo, BP has an agreement with a Canadian company to expand its refinery and split the profits from processing oil sands. In June 2009, the Alliance called on Ohio to improve controls of toxic discharges from the refinery's wastewater. The final permit issued by Ohio incorporated several important changes recommended by the Alliance, including additional monitoring requirements for dioxin and requires BP to minimize discharges of dioxin it finds.
Shell Canada-Sarnia, OntarioShell Canada was studying the feasibility of building a new heavy oil refinery near Sarnia, Ontario, capable of producing between 150,000 and 250,000 barrels per day of various light oil products. Shell had also secured options on approximately 6,000 acres of land slated for industrial development in Lambton County, near Sarnia. In comments to the government of Canada in May 2008, the Alliance described the scope of environmental review necessary for such a project. In July 2008, Shell Canada announced it was abandoning its Sarnia expansion plans.
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