Save the Badger?

Fight Over Ferry Prompts Questions on Definition of Earmarks

To its critics, the S.S. Badger is a relic and a menace, a coal-fired car ferry that dumps tons of raw coal ash into Lake Michigan each year as it plies its four-hour route between Manitowoc, Wis., and Ludington, Mich.

... Buried in a Coast Guard reauthorization bill now in final negotiations between the House and Senate is curious language saying a “qualified vessel” shall continue to operate for its entire lifetime, “without regard to any expiration dates” on the permit it operates on. Nowhere does the word “Badger” appear, nowhere is the expiration date of Dec. 19, 2012, noted.

... But the enumerated qualifications — including that it be nominated or on the list of National Historic Landmarks — apply to only one vessel, the S.S. Badger, a 60-year-old ship with a look torn from an old postcard and a permit to operate, coal ash and all, that expires next month. Republicans supposedly put an end to special-interest language slipped into bills to benefit projects or employers in their districts when they took control of the House last year.

... For those needing to traverse Lake Michigan and averse to a slog through Milwaukee, Greater Chicago and the industrial havens of North Indiana, the 410-foot Badger has presented a shortcut since 1953. Its owners glory in its antiquity, advertising it as not only the largest car ferry every to ply Lake Michigan but the only coal-fired steamship left in the United States. Its owners seem to revel in its endangered status. Their Web site includes a petition to “Save Our Ship” that acknowledges the coal-ash dumping and a status report on its quest for a new E.P.A. compliance permit. The Web site promises the ship will be back for the 2013 season once the great lake thaws.

... Economics also comes into play. To Mr. Petri and Mr. Huizenga, it boils down to one word, “jobs,” 200 of them directly dependent on the ferry, 500 more indirectly benefiting from it, $14 million for Manitowoc annually, $21 million for Ludington. Niel Wright, a spokesman for Mr. Petri, said an activist E.P.A., hostile to coal, cannot be left to its devices without some backup plan in Congress. “For Ludington, this has been a way of life for almost 60 years now, and it is a huge part of the economy,” Mr. Huizenga said.
Comment: I personally hope it is saved. It's a great way across the lake. Official site


  1. Speaking as an engineer, I'm trying to figure out what the big deal is. The ship crosses Lake Michigan about 400-500 times per year, generating about one ton of ash per crossing--about 1-2 cubic meters, or the size of a standard fridge. They can't retain this....why?

    And the same thing with the EPA. A year's Badger mercury emissions do about the same damage as....the city of Milwaukee in a day?

    Somebody is playing politics here, sad to say.

  2. I received this from the EPA today:


    Thank you for your recent message to the EPA Regional Administrator in support of the Clean Water Act permit application submitted by the owner of the S.S. Badger. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is actively reviewing the application. EPA will invite the public to comment when the Agency issues a draft decision on the application. We will let you know when the comment period begins and will consider the points in your message when we respond to comments on the draft decision.

  3. The end of the Badger? From the EPA today:

    S.S. Badger Coal Ash Discharge to Lake Michigan to Cease by End of 2014 Sailing Season

    CHICAGO (March 22, 2013) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the lodging of a proposed consent decree that requires Lake Michigan Carferry Service, Inc. (LMC) of Ludington, Michigan, to eliminate the discharge of coal ash into Lake Michigan by the end of the 2014 sailing season.

    In 2013 and 2014, the ferry will reduce its discharge of coal ash and LMC will pay a $25,000 civil penalty for violating mercury water quality standards in 2012, according to the proposed consent decree.

    “This consent decree offers the fastest and most certain path available to EPA to stop the discharge of coal ash from the Badger into Lake Michigan,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman. “The enforcement agreement reduces the discharge of coal ash more quickly and with greater oversight than would occur during the appeal of a decision to issue or deny a permit – a process that often takes several years."

    The S.S. Badger was authorized to discharge coal ash under the 2008 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Vessel General Permit. A permit provision authorized that discharge until December 2012. The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired ship operating on the Great Lakes.

    Last year, LMC applied for an individual NPDES permit to allow the S.S. Badger to continue discharging coal ash into Lake Michigan. In light of the settlement announced today, EPA does not plan to make a decision on that permit application.

    DOJ and EPA will accept and consider comments on the proposed consent decree during a 30-day public comment period, to be announced shortly in the Federal Register. The proposed consent decree is available on the DOJ website at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html. Additional information about the S.S. Badger is available at http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/npdestek/badger/.


Any anonymous comments with links will be rejected. Please do not comment off-topic