Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 5, 2012

Editorial: Free pass is sign of contempt


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---- — For further proof (as if we needed it) that many lawmakers have more than a little contempt for the rule of law, the agencies we've created to enforce our laws and the people who work to protect our environmental legacy, see the continuing misadventures of the SS Badger.

The 60-year-old coal-fired ferry that transports cars and passengers between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., is the last coal-burning steamship on the Great Lakes and by all rights should have been beached years ago. But a few Republican lawmakers seem to think it's sort of quaint that the Badger dumps 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each season and should be allowed to continue dumping as long as it can float. Rep. Dan Beniskek of Michigan's 1st Congressional District was part of the group two years ago.

As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper, the U.S. Coast Guard gave Lake Michigan Carferry, the company that owns the Badger, four years to come up with a way to retain the ash or burn a cleaner fuel such as diesel. Instead, with the help of U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich, and Tom Petri, R-Wis., the Badger was declared a National Historic Landmark.

And now the version of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill in the U.S. House would require the Environmental Protection Agency to green light any coal-fired vessel that is a National Historic Landmark.

And the Badger "... (J)ust happens to be the only one in existence," said Huizenga spokesman Brian Patrick. Wink wink, nod, nod, yuk, yuk.

What a happy coincidence, eh?