UNDATED (WSAU) The U-S House has voted to let the S-S Badger car ferry keep dumping coal-ash into Lake Michigan after its current grace period ends in December of next year. House members from Wisconsin and Michigan quietly added an amendment to a maritime transportation bill approved last week. It prevents the federal E-P-A from adopting tighter regulations for ships that have been nominated as National Historic Landmarks. A federal panel will consider that status tomorrow for the S-S Badger, which carries people and vehicles across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington Michigan.
Michigan House Republican Bill Huizenga admits that the measure is tailored to the S-S-Badger – and it was necessary to avoid the ferry from shutting down and putting 200 people out of work. Fond du Lac House Republican Tom Petri went along with the idea as a co-sponsor.
The Badger is the nation’s last coal-powered steamship – and its owner has been looking for some time for a cleaner way to discharge its waste. Still, the company says its coal ash has not hurt Lake Michigan – and tests by E-P-A-approved labs have confirmed it. The ferry dumps over 509-million tons of coal ash into the big lake each year. Environmentalists don’t buy the idea that it doesn’t cause pollution. Thom Cmar of the Natural Resources Defense Council says the House bill gives the Badger quote, “a free pass from a law that every other vessel in the Great Lakes has to follow.”