WBEZ | Whiting Refinery http://www.wbez.org/tags/whiting-refinery Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en BP contains oil spill in Lake Michigan, begins cleanup http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/puente whiting.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>WHITING, Ind. &mdash; BP says it has contained and is now cleaning up crude oil that spilled into Lake Michigan&nbsp; from its Whiting, Indiana refinery near Chicago.</p><p>The spill was detected about 4:30 Monday afternoon.</p><p>Reminiscent of the tar balls collected off the Gulf Coast after a different BP spill a few years ago, this one was confined to a shallow cove between the massive refinery and a steel mill.</p><p>BP spokesman Scott Dean said it appears the crude oil somehow seeped into the refinery&#39;s water filtration plant adjacent to the lake.</p><p>&ldquo;We were able to quickly deploy our oil spill response contractor and we&rsquo;ve seen the leak stopped yesterday and we&rsquo;ve got a containment boom in place that&rsquo;s holding the amount of oil that was released from the discharge into this cove,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said there have been no injuries, and cleanup activities along the 2,700 feet of affected shore line are still going on.</p><p>&ldquo;The good news is the leak stopped and we&rsquo;ve got it contained,&rdquo; Dean said.</p><p>Dean said the cold temperature of the lake and air may have actually aided in containing the oil, turning the crude oil into like a gel-like substance.</p><p>But questions remain about how the crude oil got into the lake in the first place.</p><p>BP just completed a $4 billion modernization to the 100-year-old Whiting Refinery, the largest inland refinery in the United States.</p><p>Sources helping with the cleanup estimate about a dozen barrels of crude spilled into the lake, with some containing what&rsquo;s considered sweet crude oil and some containing oil from Canada&rsquo;s tar sands region.</p><p>After discovering the discharge, BP notified the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Representatives from the agencies were at the refinery Monday evening.</p><p>BP says it will continue to work in full cooperation with the agencies to ensure the protection of personnel, the environment and surrounding communities.</p><p>The U.S. EPA says is unaware of any other spills from the refinery.</p><p>Mike Beslow, the onsite coordinator for the EPA at the scene, said the oil spill should not affect the quality of Lake Michigan&rsquo;s drinking water.</p><p>He says it appears the oil was released from one of BP&rsquo;s separators into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says the separator is like a holding pond and normally does not have oil in it.<br />He adds that BP&rsquo;s own systems immediately detected oil that got into the water filtration plant and into the lake.</p><p>Beslow says it&rsquo;s too early to determine if any fines will be assessed against BP for the spill.</p></p> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bp-contains-oil-spill-lake-michigan-begins-cleanup-109914 Indiana takes tougher stance on BP http://www.wbez.org/sections/energy/indiana-takes-tougher-stance-bp-108769 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BP 6.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) on Wednesday set new mercury discharge limits for BP&rsquo;s massive Whiting, Indiana refinery located just outside Chicago.</p><p dir="ltr">The stricter limits will force BP to reduce its mercury discharges into the lake every year by about one-third.</p><p dir="ltr">Under the current rules, BP&rsquo;s mercury discharges must not exceed 23 parts per trillion. The new guidelines reduce that amount to 8.75 parts per trillion. It will go into effect on Nov. 1.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a significant drop but the technology exists for them to do it,&rdquo; IDEM spokesman Dan Goldblatt told WBEZ today.</p><p dir="ltr">BP spokesman Scott Dean countered that the technology IDEM is talking about hasn&rsquo;t been tested in the real world.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;These technologies are promising but we do need to see how they work year round in a variety of weather and operating conditions,&rdquo; Dean told WBEZ. &ldquo;This is a very, very challenging permit limit and it could be difficult to meet but we&rsquo;re going to try our best.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The new technologies were developed by BP in collaboration with the Argonne National Labs in suburban Chicago and the Water Institute at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond.</p><p dir="ltr">IDEM is actually forcing BP to work with the entities to make sure its mercury discharges comply with the Clean Water Act.</p><p dir="ltr">The effort came about in 2007 after BP announced its $4 billion modernization of the century-old Whiting Refinery in order to process heavier and dirtier Canadian crude oil.</p><p dir="ltr">A public outcry from Chicago politicians and environmental groups followed when it came out that BP&rsquo;s mercury discharges would exceed federal limits.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, BP says it will continue to &ldquo;try&rdquo; to meet the reduced limits.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;BP is committed to protecting Lake Michigan and we are cautiously optimistic that our recent investment in new water treatment equipment will further reduce the Whiting Refinery mercury discharge,&rdquo; Dean said. &ldquo;Having said that, the mercury limit in the revised permit has decreased by more than half and the refinery needs to gain experience operating the new equipment before we will know if the refinery can successfully and consistently meet this revised limit.</p><p dir="ltr">But Goldblatt says there is no trying.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They can say they&rsquo;ll try all they want, they will have to meet it,&rdquo; Goldblatt said. &ldquo;If not, they&rsquo;ll be in violation of the Clean Water Act.</p><p dir="ltr">He continued, &ldquo;Fines are always an option.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Goldblatt declined to say how much the fines would amount to.</p><p dir="ltr">Ann Alexander, lead attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago, gives IDEM credit for getting tough on BP, something it hasn&rsquo;t always done in the past.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The new permit is somewhat of a pleasant surprise, albeit still a mixed bag. &nbsp;While IDEM did not do everything we asked here, it adopted some of our key requests, and made modest but significant changes. Overall, the language of the agency&rsquo;s response to our comments reflects a newfound spirit of willingness to take our input seriously,&rdquo; Alexander said in a written statement.</p><p dir="ltr">Alexander says IDEM should require BP to use the developing technology. She also takes issue with the way mercury discharge from the refinery is actually calculated .</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The State of Indiana must address the health and well-being of Hoosiers and those of us in neighboring states impacted by the potential for wholesale dumping of toxins into the source of drinking water for millions,&rdquo; Alexander stated. &ldquo;While we remain deeply concerned that the tar sands expansion at the Whiting refinery has happened at all, these small steps in the right direction by IDEM affords some cautious optimism that environmental regulators can be brought around to recognize that stringent controls on pollution from refining tar sands crude are imperative. &nbsp;We can hold out hope that IDEM&rsquo;s more cooperative tone reflects the shape of things to come.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Follow WBEZ NWI bureau reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a> and on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/WBEZ-Northwest-Indiana-Bureau/701257506570573">Facebook</a>. &nbsp;</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 25 Sep 2013 17:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/energy/indiana-takes-tougher-stance-bp-108769 Why does Chicago still have such high gas prices? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-chicago-still-have-such-high-gas-prices-107356 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Chicago gas explainer.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>It&rsquo;s Memorial Day weekend, which means more people are hitting the road...and slapping their foreheads when they see the price at the pump. Especially in Chicago.</p><p>According to a <a href="http://www.lundbergsurvey.com/csp_c.aspx" target="_blank">recent Lundberg Survey</a> the price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States rose sharply in the last two weeks because of outages at Midwest and West Coast refineries</p><p>But gas prices in Chicago are often higher than the rest of the country. Higher than New York, Los Angeles &mdash; even Hawaii.</p><p>But why? Chicago isn&rsquo;t far from oil-rich Canada and there&rsquo;s a huge refinery right next door.</p><p>Even longtime Chicagoans don&rsquo;t seem to know why gas is so expensive in the city.</p><p>&quot;I don&rsquo;t know? I think people in high office do what they want and we just have to go with the flow,&rdquo; said Kuri Roundtree, who pulled into a BP gas station at Roosevelt and Wabash in the South Loop earlier this week. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s ridiculous. It costs me $70 dollars to fill up my SUV. I&rsquo;m sure I&rsquo;m not the only person complaining about this gas. All of my family members hate going to the gas station.&quot;</p><p>Finding the answer to Chicago&rsquo;s expensive gas mystery is actually not that obvious.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago is unique for a few different reasons. Even prices outside our region could be going down while our prices are going up,&rdquo; said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.</p><p>DeHaan says many factors that help set gas prices for the entire country are simply out of our control. For starters, the sky high price of crude oil on the global market.&nbsp; Thanks to demand in Asia, turmoil in the Middle East and good ol&rsquo; Mother Nature &mdash; like the flooding we experienced earlier this month.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s nothing really to fix,&rdquo; DeHaan said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s just the way the free market works with gasoline. Prices go up and down.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, if you live in Chicago, it&rsquo;s usually up.</p><p>Another reason for this is the process of refining the crude oil before it gets to the pump.</p><p>There are four refineries that generally serve the Chicago market, including BP&rsquo;s massive refinery in nearby Whiting, Indiana, right across the state border.</p><p>The Whiting refinery has been around longer than there have been automobiles. It was part of John D. Rockefeller&rsquo;s Standard Oil empire in the late 1800s. Of course, it&rsquo;s more expensive now to refine crude oil than it was back then primarily because of environmental regulations.</p><p>You&rsquo;ve probably heard about the cleaner burning &ldquo;summer blend&rdquo; that the Environmental Protection Agency requires for cities like Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;Summer gasoline, or gasoline with a different RVP, is a different formulation. You can&rsquo;t use some of your lighter ends, such as your butanes to add to the volume of the gasoline, because it would evaporate out in the higher temperatures so it is more expensive in the summer,&rdquo; said BP Whiting senior spokesman Scott Dean.</p><p>Unfortunately for Chicago&rsquo;s gas customers, the city&rsquo;s close proximity to the BP Refinery doesn&rsquo;t help much in keeping costs down. Dean says that&rsquo;s not how wholesale pricing works.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s called the rack price,&rdquo; Dean said. &ldquo;The rack price is what the tanker truck driver who may be representing any number of companies, will go, will get the fuel, will pay whatever the rack price of what they&rsquo;ve agreed to. And, the retailer will then determine the final price that they sell on the street.&rdquo;</p><p>Customers may also have a desire to blame gas station owners for the high price of gasoline. But Beth Mosher, spokeswoman for AAA Chicago Motor Club, says it&rsquo;s not their fault.</p><p>&ldquo;Everybody wants to take it out on their local gas station owner why these prices are so high,&rdquo; Mosher said. &ldquo;But the reality is when the prices are this high the profit margins for these gas stations are so thin, they are going to make more from a bag of doritos that they are selling you than they are the gas.&rdquo;</p><p>Mosher says the final factor for high gasoline prices can be pinned on the tax man.</p><p>&ldquo;First and foremost, we have to talk about the high taxes in Chicago,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;About 70 cents on the gallon is what people pay in Chicago for gas taxes, really, really a high number, especially given the statewide average is 49 cents on the gallon.&rdquo;</p><p>Those figures can fluctuate, but that means generally 70 to 90 cents for every gallon of gas pumped in Chicago goes to taxes.</p><p>For example, if gas costs $4.67 a gallon that means 18 cents goes to the federal government; 43 cents for the state. And if you live in Chicago, tack on another 33 cents for Cook County and the city.</p><p>That includes sales and motor fuel taxes, the latter of which goes to pay for roads and bridges and some of the capital projects.</p><p>Although increasingly that money is being diverted to pay for things like pensions.</p><p>Another factor that hits wallets particularly hard is the way all levels of government in Illinois levy sales tax on gasoline purchases. The state of Illinois alone charges 6.25 percent sales tax. Twenty years ago when gas was much cheaper that meant just pennies on the dollar. But now that can be an extra 20 cents or more per gallon since the higher the gas price, the more taxes you pay.</p><p>&ldquo;Most states don&rsquo;t do that. Most states tax only based per unit, per gallon if you will. So, even if the cost goes up, the amount of tax you pay does not go up in terms of your overall cost,&rdquo; said John Tillman, Chief Executive Officer for the Illinois Policy Institute, based in downtown Chicago.</p><p>Last summer, the Institute called for the state sales tax to be changed so it&rsquo;s based on the number of gallons purchased, and not the price. The proposal fell on deaf ears in Springfield.</p><p>Still, if prices aren&rsquo;t coming down anytime soon, what are drivers supposed to do?</p><p>Well, for one thing, we can buy less gas.</p><p>&ldquo;We urge people not to wait for the government to do things but start consolidating your trips and take the L or the Metra train if that&rsquo;s a possibility to you,&rdquo; Mosher said. &ldquo;Do things on your own to start getting better gas mileage out of your car.&rdquo;</p><p>But even if you buy that fuel efficient hybrid or an electric car, drivers still might not be out of the woods when it comes to paying higher gas taxes.</p><p>Lawmakers in Springfield are talking about boosting motor fuel taxes to make up the lost revenue from fuel-efficient cars that use less gas. They may even impose fees on the fuel-efficient vehicles themselves to help fund road repairs.</p><p>One supporter of this proposal is Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>Whitely is also co-chair of the <a href="http://tficillinois.org/" target="_blank">Transportation for Illinois Coalition</a> which has been in Springfield pushing an increase to Illinois&rsquo; motor fuel tax. Although with only one week remaining in the state&rsquo;s spring schedule, he says most lawmakers are focused on issues like pensions, conceal-carry and same-sex marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;The state&rsquo;s capital program to fund construction for roads, bridges and transit falls off the cliff next year. That fiscal cliff we heard about in Washington also exists in Springfield,&rdquo; Whitely told WBEZ this week.</p><p>Whitely explained that the state&rsquo;s fiscal program that started in 2009 will expire in the next fiscal year.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s discussion of how to keep capital dollars flowing to the state and local government and the transit districts so they can continue to build, maintain and modernize and handle their construction needs,&rdquo; Whitely said.</p><p>Whitely said one proposal garnering a lot of attention is the idea of abolishing Illinois&rsquo; 19 cent motor fuel tax and establishing a new sales tax on fuels. A similar plan was just implemented in Virginia.</p><p>&ldquo;The motor fuel tax was last increased 23 years ago and there&rsquo;s no growth in that tax in large part because of the mile-advantages of today&rsquo;s more fuel efficient cars can take advantage of,&rdquo; Whitely said. &ldquo;We already have cars getting 50 miles to the gallon and electric cars, so the motor fuel tax isn&rsquo;t putting the money into the road fund to support construction.&rdquo;</p><p>Another idea is to levy new taxes or registration fees on hybrids and electric cars directly.</p><p>&ldquo;If you have an electric car, you&#39;re really getting away to use the roads but not having to pay much for them,&rdquo; Whitely said.</p><p>Whitely is sympathetic to Chicago area residents who already pay a lot of taxes on gas. &ldquo;But if you want to continue to have transportation systems that are modern, efficient, clean and safe, there&rsquo;s going to be a cost related to that,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;The bottom line is, there is no free lunch.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-393eb71c-d7eb-292a-bd1c-de35c9fd58e4"><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews.</a></em></p></p> Fri, 24 May 2013 13:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-does-chicago-still-have-such-high-gas-prices-107356