We can all agree on the importance of our Great Lakes and the need to take care of them, but sometimes the environment and business clash.  New, cleaner technology can be expensive to implement and can be a strain on business.  Exactly where to draw the line between business and environment is a continually evolving question.

The Badger currently has a permit which allows it to dump coal ash in Lake Michigan.  That permit will expire after 2012.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would allow the Badger to continue dumping coal in Lake Michigan for the life of the vessel.  U.S. Representative Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, was among the bills co-sponsors.  The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.

The Lake Michigan Car Ferry Co. owns the Badger.  They say that the coal they dump in Lake Michigan is not hazardous.

Mlive.com reports:

The Lake Michigan Carferry Co. says tests of the Badger's coal-ash discharges by an independent, Environmental Protection Agency-certified laboratory have confirmed that “the coal ash lacks the presence of anything at or near levels that would qualify as hazardous under any law.” The company says only four impurities were found and they existed at “levels hundreds of times below what EPA said would make the ash hazardous.”

S.S. Badger officials say they plan to eventually switch to natural gas as their fuel.

The Alliance for the Great Lakes says the Badger dumps an average of 3.8 tons of coal in Lake Michigan per day during its five-month sailing season.  They also say that the coal being dumped into Lake Michigan is dangerous.

The Badger is the nation's last operating coal-burning steamship.  Should it be given special permission to continue dumping coal in Lake Michigan or be forced to convert to cleaner fuel to continue operation?