The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will let the Lake Michigan carferry keep sailing between Manitowoc and Ludington, Mich. under a proposed agreement announced today.
For years, the carferry and the federal government have been talking about whether to extend the S.S. Badger's permit to dump coal ash into Lake Michigan. The issue drew plenty of scrutiny from Great Lakes politicians, environmentalists and owners of other ferries.
Now, the Lake Michigan carferry and the EPA have entered into a proposed consent decree, under which the boat would reduce coal ash dumping over the next two years before halting the dumping by the end of 2014. The carferry plans to keep burning coal, but install an unspecified ash container, and says it will properly dispose of or recycle the ash on land. The EPA wants to fine the enterprise $25,000 for violating the Clean Water Act last year.
The company and EPA declined to do on the record interviews, but Amber Meyer Smith of Clean Wisconsin says the deal is disappointing. Smith says LMCS could have acted long ago: "The company has used the time the EPA has given them before only to try and get around complying with the law, so the fact that they're getting more time is a little bit disappointing for us to see."
Smith also says she wishes the carferry company would stop using coal and switch to another fuel, like natural gas. She plans to file comments on the proposed deal during an upcoming 30 day comment period. Governor Scott Walker says he is very pleased to hear the EPA and the carferry company have found a reasonable solution regarding the future of the boat.