BP: Responding to Public Pressure
British Petroleum (BP) applied for a permit in 2006 to expand its Indiana refinery and increase its discharge of ammonia and suspended solids into Lake Michigan. The permit was approved by the state and federal regulatory authorities. What followed was an outcry of public opinion against this decision culminating in an article in the national media and speeches by presidential candidate Barak Obama. Critics labeled the increased discharge as “toxic sludge.” Though BP had full regulatory approval to proceed with the expansion, and the scientific consensus was that the increased discharge would not harm the Lake Michigan ecosystem, they decided not to use the new discharge permit in the face of intense public scrutiny. However, this did not quell the negative media coverage regarding their discharge application.