MILWAUKEE (AP) — Congress has handed a defeat to owners of a passenger ferry that dumps coal ash into Lake Michigan as it travels between Wisconsin and Michigan.
The U.S. House on Wednesday passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that stripped language requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to give the go-ahead to the nearly 60-year-old SS Badger to keep operating.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that an identical bill passed the U.S. Senate earlier. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The ferry transports cars and passengers between Ludington, Mich., and Manitowoc, Wis., and is the last coal-burning steamship on the Great Lakes. The Badger, run by Lake Michigan Carferry, has been defended by nautical history buffs and those who see the ship as a boon to the economies of the two cities it serves.
Environmentalists objected to the tons of coal ash that the Badger released into the lake on daily voyages during the shipping season.
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., had introduced an amendment co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., that would allow the Badger to keep operating — specifically, to allow any such ship that is a National Historic Landmark.
Critics derided the amendment as a congressional earmark. But Petri spokesman Niel Wright said that Petri wanted to keep the Badger operating because of its economic benefits in two states.
“We have a good number of jobs in Manitowoc that are under threat because of this,” Wright said. “Mr. Petri thinks that the pollution is really minimal and it’s important for our economic livelihood.”
The ferry has been discharging its ash under a federal permit that expires Dec. 19. The EPA is reviewing a request by the owners of the Badger to keep operating the ship, using its existing technology.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com