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Sen. Durbin tries to block protections for coal ash-dumping car ferry

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.michiganmessenger.com/Great-lakes63.jpg

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is asking federal officials to protect Lake Michigan from coal ash pollution from the S.S. Badger car ferry which operates between Luddington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the operators of the coal-powered car ferry operators hope to avoid U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules against dumping coal ash in the lake by placing the vessel on the national list of historic and cultural landmarks, and that a National Park Service advisory panel voted to approve the ferry’s nomination on Wednesday.

Coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, lead and other health-damaging heavy metals and the S.S. Badger dumps at least 509 tons overboard each year.

In letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Sen. Jay Rockeller (D-WV), who chairs the committee that oversees the Coast Guard, Durbin argued against exempting the vessels from EPA rules.

“We cannot let Historic Landmark status be used to evade the federal regulations we rely on to protect public health and the environment,” Durbin wrote to Salazar, who has the final say on the Badger’s application. “This Great Lake cannot take any more toxic dumping, no matter how historic or quaint the source may be.”

Last Friday the U.S. House approved an amendment to the Coast Guard budget that would allow the S.S. Badger to continue its current mode of operating for the life of the vessel.

Durbin asked Rockefeller to remove that amendment from the Coast Guard budget when it comes before his committee.

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