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Long before BP’s oil well blew up and began spewing crude all over the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk had tagged the company as an environmental menace.
Kirk’s Senate campaign website boasts that “Mark Kirk stood up to Big Oil when he stopped BP from polluting Lake Michigan.” That’s true. But it’s also true that he stood up for Big Oil’s right to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2007, when the state of Indiana gave BP permission to dump more ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan, Kirk joined several other congressmen and the Daley administration in a petition drive opposing the permit.
The company was trying to expand its Whiting refinery by crawling through a loophole that allowed additional pollution for projects with “significant social and economic benefits.” BP claimed it would allow them to refine gas from Canadian oil, adding 80 jobs.
“I think BP now stands for bad polluter,” Kirk said, during a boat tour of the refinery. “They need to be called out on their corporate hypocrisy.”
Kirk and his allies created so much bad publicity for BP that the company backed down on its plans to expand the refinery and pollute the lake.
Two years later, Kirk went after BP again when the EPA discovered its Whiting refinery had been emitting cancer-causing benzene without proper air pollution controls.
“This latest development further underscores the fact that BP cannot be trusted to meet federal clean air and water requirements,” Kirk wrote in a statement to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “There should be zero tolerance for releasing deadly poisons into our air and water.”
Kirk’s attitude toward oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico is a different story.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, he joined his party’s “Drill Baby Drill” wing by endorsing oil exploration in the Gulf, arguing that if we didn’t do it, the Cubans would.
“It makes no sense to allow the Chinese to drill on the Cuban side of the line in Florida without us tapping into the very same oilfields,” Kirk said on WLS’ Don Wade and Roma Morning Show. “We’ve got the Venezuelans, the Dutch and the Chinese all drilling in the gulf under leases from Cuba. It makes perfect sense for the United States to make sure our team gets that same oil before Castro does.”
We’re getting that oil all right. It’s about to wash up in New Orleans. As long as the slick doesn’t spread to North Avenue Beach, Kirk probably won’t have any complaints.
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