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BP Permit Saga: How Much Is Being Dumped May Be Tough To Figure Out

Sewagemonster If, after reading this story, you have any idea how much waste BP is actually dumping into Lake Michigan, raise your hand:

"Although officials at BP's Whiting refinery admit the facility dumps about 37,000 pounds of ammonia in Lake Michigan each year, members of a government watchdog group say the public is misled because the company is required to report to the EPA only 10 percent of that amount.

"Moreover, the watchdogs say, the EPA system meant to inform the public of chemical releases by industry gives an incomplete snapshot of what is actually being dumped into the environment nationwide.

"Federal reporting law, maligned by the Washington-based watchdog group OMB Watch, requires BP and other companies only to report to the EPA -- and therefore the public -- about 10 percent of the ammonia it dumps into Lake Michigan.

"BP officials argue that its Whiting facility only releases a fraction of what it is allowed to dump under permits approved by the state and federal governments. In 2005 for example, permits allowed the facility to release an average of 1,030 pounds of ammonia per day, but company officials said it only dumped an average of 103 pounds.

"'On average -- a day-in, and day-out basis -- we operate well below the current limits that are set for both ammonia and suspended solids,' BP spokesman Tom Keilman said. 'We always continually strive to be well below the limit.'

"But Sean Moulton, of OMB Watch, argues the permits are not the issue. The Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, which the EPA uses to inform the public of chemical discharges by companies, is not telling the public the whole story, Moulton said.

"'There are a variety of problems with how they've constructed the system,' Moulton said. 'I think the way the system is going, we're getting less information.'"

Fort Wayne Paper: Kelty Case Should Go To Trial, Be Decided Before Election

Keltyincuffs The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette thinks indicted mayoral candidate Matt Kelty should go to trial before the election, so those who go to the polls can know whether one of the guys on the ballot can legally remain there:

"Fort Wayne voters will very likely enter polling places Nov. 6 and see on their ballots the name of a mayoral candidate who has criminal felony charges against him pending. By any measure, no matter what your political beliefs, this is bad for the political process, bad for the city.

"No option serves everyone's interests, but the best one is a trial and verdict before the election.

"Voters who want to select the Republican candidate must do so knowing of the real possibility that Matt Kelty could be elected and, within weeks or months of taking office, be convicted of one or more of the seven felony charges he faces. If he is convicted of a felony, Kelty could not be mayor; so Republican precinct committeemen would choose his successor. This is no short-term appointment: Whoever was selected would fulfill the rest of the term through Dec. 31, 2011.

"Many Kelty supporters have relished the victory against the GOP establishment in the primary. Yet if this scenario plays out, a Kelty victory would mean Republican insiders – not voters – would choose a mayor who would serve most of the four-year term, with no mandate from the citizenry."

The Fort Wayne paper also gives us this look at how Kelty's campaign may shape up under the cloud of speculation created by his judicial troubles.

Let Us Pay: Should Churches Be Taxed For Some Of The Services They Use?

Prayer Well, let's kick off this Sunday discussion with a holy question: Is it time to bring churches into the property tax fold, charging them, at the least, for basic the basic public services they use just like the rest of us?

"Churches make up the largest chunk of tax-exempt property in Marion County -- by far.

"But historic fears about state control of the church and the sheer political force of the faith community make talk of going after church property tax exemptions akin to heresy.

"More than 1,600 religious institutions in Marion County -- from small storefront chapels to megachurches -- are tax-exempt. And their holdings are worth more than $1 billion.

"Yet some lawmakers and scholars are asking whether it is time for these properties to bear more of the weight for supporting local government, given the tax increases homeowners now face. But they know any such effort won't be popular.

"Stripping religious institutions of all their tax exemptions isn't on the agenda for most lawmakers; sanctuaries, it seems, still remain sacred ground.

"But people such as state Reps. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, and Thomas E. Saunders, R-Lewisville, suggest that religious groups could pay something, such as fees for basic services like police and fire protection.

"'I don't think the public realizes the amount of exempt property that is out there,' Saunders said. 'If those people at least paid for the services their property received, (everyone's) property taxes would be less.'"

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