Lake Michigan Car Ferry, SS Badger, and EPA Reach Agreement

Thomas Kreutzer
by Thomas Kreutzer

The Lake Michigan Car Ferry website is reporting that the Environmental Protection Agency and the operators of the Lake Michigan car ferry, the SS Badger, which runs between Ludington MI and Manitowoc, WI, have reached and agreement that will allow the historic steamship to continue operating. The Badger is one of the last coal fired vessels operating commercially on the great lakes and its continued operation means millions of trade and tourist dollars for the region it serves. During the summer months, the 6650 ton vessel makes two round trip crossings per day and can carry 600 passengers and up to 180 automobiles.

The SS Badger’s future was cast into uncertainty when the ship’s permit to dump coal ash into the waters of Lake Michigan, something that was common when the ship was constructed in the early 1950s, expired in December of last year. The current agreement allows the company to continue dumping ash into the lake with a 15% reduction for the next two years while constructing a containment system that must be in place by January 1, 2015. After that date, no more ash can be dumped overboard.

Yours truly made the Ludington to Manitowoc crossing in the summer of 2004 and had a wonderful time. Having spent around 5 years as an engineer on large, oil fired steamships in the Pacific, I was excited when, planning a cross country trip, I discovered the ferry service. Instead of driving south through the maelstrom that is Chicago area traffic, I cut across bucolic upstate Michigan and made a leisurely passage in fine weather. Like many other fans of the SS Badger, I am thrilled that this historic old vessel will continue sailing into the foreseeable future.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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  • Jhefner Jhefner on May 02, 2013

    As is often the case in stories like these; follow the money. The Ludington Daily News did; and here is what they published: 4/26 - A story “Attacking the SS Badger, the Deception of Environmental Activism,” in the most recent edition of Outer Boundary Magazine, a Wisconsin-based family outdoor magazine, details what it concludes to be an effort by Lake Michigan Carferry’s competitor to push the coal ash issue/environmental issue to gain the Milwaukee-based competitor a competitive advantage — not for the good of the environment. The lead story by Steve Krueger tries to put in perspective the small amounts of toxins in the coal ash discharged by the SS Badger, but more notably creates a flowchart of how the magazine believes Sheldon Lubar, the founder and chairman of Lubar & Co. which lists Lake Express as its investment, hired both a Michigan lobbying firm and a national lobbying firm to foment opposition to the Ludington ferry based on exaggerated environmental claims. The magazine links Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat and the U.S. Senate majority leader who has been notably outspoken about the Badger’s coal ash, with the Lake Express’s national lobbyist, Broydrick & Associates. The magazine times at least one of Durbin’s seven-minute Senate floor bashings to having occurred just days after a Dec. 12, 2012 fundraiser the lobbying firm hosted for Durbin in At the National Historic Landmarks committee hearing concerning the SS Badger being recommended for NHL status, Broydrick testified in opposition to the idea. The committee rejected the lobbying firm’s arguments, as was reported in the Ludington Daily News at the time. According to the Outer Boundary story, later that same day Durbin wrote a letter to Ken Salazar, then- U.S. Secretary of the Interior who had the ultimate authority for the decision, opposing the committee’s recommendation. The designation so far has not been given to the Badger. Broydrick also represented Lake Express in its opposition to the City of Ludington’s Tiger II federal grant application sought on behalf of LMC to provide funds to repower the Badger with diesel engines. The grant was not awarded to Ludington. Broydrick also lobbied the EPA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration — all entities involved in matters pertaining to the SS Badger. It is not illegal to hire lobbyists. LMC has its own lobbyists in Washington, D.C. And while Durbin and Broydrick push opposition to the Badger on environmental grounds, Lubar & Co lists on its web page as one of its investments, Hallador Petroleum Co., through its subsidiary Sunrise Coal LLC. The company is engaged in the production of coal from an underground mine in Carlisle, Indiana. Lubar & Co. is the second largest investor with 9.8 percent ownership. The web link to the coal company on Lubar’s investment portfolio page is directly next to the web link to Lake Express. Hallador Energy Energy’s CEO Vic Stabio told the Denver Business News in 2011 Hallador will focus on coal indefinitely. Although Hallador considered developing environmentally sustainable energy projects Stabio said the company doesn’t anticipate an economic benefit from seeking alternatives to coal, the Denver publication reported. “We are a group that believes in coal as a base load [the minimum amount of power required from a power plant] electrical producer and we quite frankly don’t see a threat from wind or solar, especially wind,” Stabio said. Outer Boundary stated Hallador has urged people to write members of Congress “to stop the war on coal.” Sheldon Lubar is on Hallador’s board of directors. While Broydrick was working the national front, Outer Boundary states the Lansing lobbying firm of Kelley Cawthorne, whose two principles are former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley and former State Representative Dennis Cawthorne who once represented Mason County, did the same in Michigan. The magazine’s flow chart also lists Organik Consulting and Movement Advocate as involved. Outer Boundary states Movement Advocate’s managing director is Joe Serwach who the magazine says organized the “Save Our Great Lakes” campaign which the magazine ties to “Stop Dumping Coal Ash.” The “Stop Dumping Coal Ash” was a web-based campaign against LMC and SS Badger. Its ads and videos did not clearly state the people involved in the organization as it launched sometimes preposterous claims about the Badger such as showing a photo of a foot supposedly stepping in what it intimated was black coal ash on a beach. The campaign employed techniques often seen in negative political advertising. Stop Dumping Coal Ash also was the name placed on web-based anti-Badger Google advertising that was shown to be paid for by Lake Express and Kelly Cawthorne. The Ludington Daily News in the fall verified that link when shown it by a local marketing agent who discovered it and wanted the ads off the local company’s web site. “The conclusion Outer Boundary Magazine has a arrived at is simple. The only reason a movement against the SS Badger has taken place is to eliminate the competition for Lake Express car ferry service. When you follow the money trail the piggy bank resides with Sheldon B. Lubar and Lake Express, and when consideration is taken showing an orchestrated environmental movement against an insignificant operation, while large discharges like British Petroleum’s refinery and the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee sewage discharges do not even show up on the activist radar, there is no other path that can be considered,” the Outer Boundary story concludes. Calls for comments this morning made to Lake Express and Kelly Cawthorne had, as of deadline, not received response. Sen. Durbin's office in late morning said was unaware of the magazine story and early this afternoon said it contained errors, but has not yet stated what are the errors. Lake Michigan Carferry this morning praised the Outer Boundary article. “We are pleased that Steve Krueger, of Outer Boundary Magazine, has taken this issue on. We appreciate the time and effort that he’s dedicated to bringing awareness and greater clarification to the assault that LMC has been under from our adversaries,” stated Terri Brown, director of marketing and media relations.

  • -Nate -Nate on May 03, 2013

    THANK YOU ! . A few here may remember when news used the ' follow the money ' mantra always , not so much these days sad to say . -Nate

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