Home / News / IDEM reschedules canceled BP permit meeting for Feb. 22, extends comment period – Chicago Tribune

IDEM reschedules canceled BP permit meeting for Feb. 22, extends comment period – Chicago Tribune


The Indiana Department of Environmental Management announced Monday that a public hearing on BP’s air permit renewal application for the company’s Whiting refinery has been postponed until Feb. 22.

Calumet College of St. Louis, located at 2400 New York Ave. in Whiting. The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on BP’s draft permit during the meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. in St. Joseph’s room 200. The room is entered from the back entrance on the west side of the building.

The agency also extended the deadline for written comments on permit renewal until the end of the business day, Feb. 26.

The public meeting, previously scheduled for Feb. 8 at East Chicago Central High School, was canceled at the last minute by East Chicago interim principal Marlon Mitchell. The East Chicago School City and IDEM offered conflicting explanations for the cancellation, which were delivered to an angry crowd of community members and environmental advocates shortly after the meeting’s scheduled start time.

An agency spokesperson wrote in a statement Friday that the meeting was canceled after Mitchell “informed IDEM staff that he had concerns about proceeding with members of the media present.”

“Discussions with IDEM representatives regarding the need for media access proved unproductive; the superintendent ultimately denied media and public access to the building and canceled the meeting,” the spokesperson wrote.

In its own statement, the school district attributed the cancellation to “IDEM’s failure to obtain an appropriate security commitment and the unruly behavior of some members of the public gathered for the meeting.”

When the meeting’s scheduled start time arrived, some members of the crowd began banging on the school’s glass doors and demanded that the meeting be allowed to begin. The school district claimed that some members of the crowd attempted to “force their way into the entrance of the building.”

Public interest in BP’s permit renewal application was further fueled by a series of widely publicized environmental incidents at the refinery.

In January, the refinery experienced two separate tank leaks a week apart due to equipment malfunctions. IDEM said the leaks caused the release of benzene and hydrogen sulfide into the atmosphere and produced a strong chemical odor noticed by many residents in Northwest Indiana and Illinois. Both chemicals have the potential to cause serious adverse health effects.

On February 2, employees and contractors were evacuated and the facility was temporarily closed following a power outage that led to an unplanned gas explosion; Fire smoke above the facility’s chimneys could be seen from kilometers away. The company said no one was injured, but residents once again noticed a pungent odor in the area’s air that lasted for days.

Many of those who attended the canceled Thursday meeting complained of symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness, which they attributed to pollutants in the air from the refinery. Environmental advocates used the opportunity presented by BP’s permit renewal application to push for stricter testing and pollution control requirements to be included in the company’s renewed permit.



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