HEC V. IDEM (BP WHITING)
On February 5, 2008, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) published notice of the public comment period and hearing for a combined air permit for BP’s Whiting facility. The combined permit provided for a state construction permit and a Title V operating permit. The operating permit required IDEM approval before BP could begin construction of its $3.8 billion expansion project at the Whiting plant. BP’s stated purpose for expanding its facility was to refine more heavy crude oil from the Canadian tar sands and to increase motor fuels production by 1.7 million gallons per day.
IDEM’s notice triggered the standard 30-day public comment period and scheduled the public hearing for February 25. This improperly gave the public only 20 days of notice in which to review 6,410 pages of combined permit documents.
IDEM received numerous requests, including LEAF’s on behalf of a coalition of organizations, to extend the public comment period and hearing date. Seemingly in response to these requests, IDEM extended the hearing date to March 14 and the public comment period to March 24. This extension corrected its prior inadequate notice and provided the required 30-day period for public comment.
Meaningful public involvement and careful review of the air permit was extremely important, especially due to the fact that the expansion project would build the use of dirtier crude oil into the refinery for decades to come. Dirtier crude oil requires more energy to refine, has much higher sulfur content, and consequently much higher concentrations of hazardous H2S and SOx, and results in significantly increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
BP’s application requested increases in releases of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and lead by 2011. In addition, BP expected its expansion project to increase the facility’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30 to 50 percent, although carbon dioxide would not be regulated under the permit.
For better public understanding of the critical issues involved, LEAF researched, prepared and widely distributed a Citizen Fact Sheet for use at the public hearing. The fact sheet outlined additional reasons for concern that were not addressed by the proposed permits or disclosed by BP or IDEM. It also provided an explanation of the regulatory framework under which the permits would have to comply. LEAF’s attorney, Kim Ferraro, testified at the public hearing on behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations.
IDEM approved the deficient permits without requiring the facility to properly account for all emissions increases that would result from the expansion project. This decision allowed the facility to avoid stringent emissions limits that would otherwise be required by the Clean Air Act.
Consequently, LEAF, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Environmental Integrity, filed Administrative Review proceedings before IDEM on behalf of Save the Dunes Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Sierra Club and two individual petitioners who live in Lake County.
LEAF’s request for an extension of the public comment period. download
IDEM’s Response to LEAF’s request was disappointing. IDEM extended the public comment period only 13 days from March 8 to March 21, and did not bifurcate the public informational meeting date from the hearing date. download
LEAF prepared a summary of legal and technical issues for citizen use at the public hearing. download
In addition, LEAF attorney, Kim Ferraro, testified at the public hearing on behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations. download
LEAF filed petition for Administrative Review on behalf of HEC and two individual petitioners. download
BP’s Back at It, Michael Puente, Chicago Public Radio
Fighting to Put the Public in BP Public Hearings, Michael Puente, Chicago Public Radio
New BP Permit Hearing March 14, Gitte Laasby, Post-Tribune, Mar. 2008
Environmentalists upset about short time to review BP air permit, South Bend Tribune, Mar. 3, 2008
IDEM helps BP avoid soot reductions, Post-Tribune, Gitte Laasby (March 9, 2008)
BP Permit raises query by environmentalists, Post-Tribune, Gitte Laasby (March 11, 2008)
Fight To Halt BP Expansion In NW Indiana Continues, Copyright 2008, Sun-Times News Group
Crowd supports BPs request for new air permit, Tom Coyne, Associated Press, Mar. 14, 2008
Groups appeal state permit for BP oil refinery, Associated Press, May 13, 2008