Finally, someone running for the White House is saying something about the Great Lakes. Yesterday, Barack Obama –wearing his hat as US Senator – wrote the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee requesting a hearing on Indiana’s decision to permit BP to expand its Whiting facility on Lake Michigan.
Obama is most concerned with the increased pollution allowed under the permit, including unsafe levels of mercury. “This issue underscores the challenges faced by the United States as we pursue the dual goals of improved energy security and environmental restoration – issues such as full compliance with the Clean Water Act, the effect of pollutants on drinking water sources that cut across political boundaries, the ability to mitigate, prevent or offset increased discharges into shared water bodies, and the importance of safeguarding the Great Lakes for future generations,” he wrote.
If the committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), agrees to call for hearings, it will be one more obstacle in BP’s cluttered path. The US House recently passed a “sense of the Congress” urging Indiana to reconsider the permit and calling on the EPA to take better care of the Lakes. On Monday, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels buckled under the mounting pressure and called for a review of the permit decision. Then yesterday the Great Lakes Alliance filed a petition requesting that the state office of Environmental Adjudication block the permit and give groups a chance to appeal it.
Momentum to protect the lake is gathering like a summer gale, continually whipping the controversy and not letting up. Hopefully it will drive the Great Lakes onto the agenda for the presidential race. All Obama needs to do is switch hats and stake out his claim on the issue. Not a bad idea, considering the impact Ohio and other Great Lakes States had on the last Presidential election.