NEW YORK - British oil giant BP Plc may scrap a $3.8 billion expansion plan for its Whiting, Indiana, refinery if it cannot develop technology to limit the level of pollution the plant releases into Lake Michigan. The upgrade has been criticized by environmental groups and politicians, including Chicago's mayor since Indiana issued a permit allowing BP to dump more waste into the Great Lakes.
NEW YORK - British oil giant BP Plc may scrap a $3.8 billion expansion plan for its Whiting, Indiana, refinery if it cannot develop technology to limit the level of pollution the plant releases into Lake Michigan.
The upgrade has been criticized by environmental groups and politicians, including Chicago's mayor since Indiana issued a permit allowing BP to dump more waste into the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the permit and agreed it was below federal limits, but BP said in a statement Thursday that it would look for ways to keep pollution levels flat or halt development.
"We will not make use of the higher discharge limits in our new permit," BP America President Bob Malone said.
"We're not aware of any technology that will get us to those limits, but we'll work to develop a project that allows us to do so. If necessary changes to the project result in a material impact to project viability, we could be forced to cancel it."
Indiana granted the permit in June allowing the 405,000 barrel per day refinery to dump 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more suspended solids containing metals and other minerals into Lake Michigan.
The project is designed to increase the plant's ability to refine heavy Canadian oil from 30 percent to 90 percent and to increase fuel output by 1.7 million gallons per day. It would create 80 permanent jobs and 200 construction jobs, BP said.
Illinois officials, including Sen. Dick Durbin, are concerned about the extra pollution from the expanded refinery which is just a few miles from Chicago. Illinois and Indiana share the waters of Lake Michigan.
"BP's announcement that it will operate the Whiting refinery at the lower waste limit requirements is an encouraging development," said Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama in a statement.
"I hope today's news reflects a genuine commitment not only to protecting Lake Michigan, but also restoring it."
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich called the company's decision not to add to the lake's pollution a major victory for what he called was one of the states biggest natural assets.
BP has nurtured a green-energy company image in recent years, only to see its efforts undermined by a string of U.S. environmental disasters since 2005, including a deadly refinery explosion and pipeline leaks.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said he hoped technology would be developed in the next year that would save the project and the related economic benefits for the state.
"BP made a difficult business decision, one that means this project may not happen or be moved to another state," Daniels said in a statement sent to Reuters.
"For now, let's hope this quiets the hypocrisy of politicians elsewhere whose states dump vastly greater amounts of effluent in the Great Lakes and other bodies of water."
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