Indiana environmental department abruptly cancels meeting on Whiting BP oil refinery outage

Eric Horng Image
Friday, February 9, 2024
IDEM abruptly cancels environmental meeting on Whiting BP oil refinery
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management had been set to hear concerns about the facility in the wake of last week's outage.

WHITING, Ind. (WLS) -- There was anger and confusion Thursday night after a meeting about the BP refinery in Whiting was abruptly canceled by the school district.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management was set to hear concerns about the facility.

However, when the community arrived to East Chicago Central High School, the doors were closed.

"We came here with the intention of holding a public meeting that included with members of the media," Communications Director of Indiana Dept. Of Environmental Management Allen Carter said. "The school made the decision that they were uncomfortable with that, and decided that they wanted to terminate the meeting."

Last Thursday, a power outage prompted flaring from smokestacks. The extra flaring process is done to burn off excess product during a power outage, BP said. However the flares caused odors that spread into the Chicago area.

BP maintains there has been no health or environmental impact.

"Our team is learning from our issues and embedding changes that support sustained improvements," BP said in a statement.

RELATED: BP Whiting oil refinery power outage could lead to higher Chicago gas prices

Residents reacted to the abruptly canceled meeting.

"No, they don't get a permit," Northwest Indiana Resident Ashley Williams said. "We want to see numbers."

ABC7 reached out to the district, School City of East Chicago, but did not immediately receive a response.

The state said it intends to hold a public meeting at another location soon, and released a statement, saying:

"On Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, representatives from IDEM's Office of Air Quality Permits Branch arrived at East Chicago Public High School for a scheduled public meeting to discuss an air permitting renewal application for BP Products North America Inc.'s Whiting Business Unit.

"As recently as last month, the school served as a location for IDEM public meetings due to the auditorium's ability to accommodate larger crowds. However, moments before Thursday's meeting was set to begin, the school district superintendent 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, with the superintendent ultimately denying media and public access to the building and canceling the meeting.

'IDEM permitting staff came to East Chicago prepared to engage with the public and answer questions about BP's permit renewal application. We are disappointed that this opportunity was not provided last night,' said IDEM Commissioner Brian Rockensuess. 'Community involvement and transparency is a vital component of the governmental process and IDEM is committed to providing opportunities for engagement that include the public and the media.'

"IDEM plans to reschedule the public meeting and is currently reviewing suitable venues in the area. A specific date, time, and location will be announced at a later date. Once a meeting is scheduled, details can be found at Additionally, IDEM will extend the public comment period for this permit renewal to coincide with the rescheduled public meeting.

"To submit public written comments to IDEM staff specific to this air permit, please contact:

"Doug Logan
IDEM, Office of Air Quality
100 North Senate Avenue
MC 61-53 IGCN 1003
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2251
(800) 451-6027, ask for Doug Logan or dial directly: (317) 234-7460
Fax: (317) 232-6749, Attn: Doug Logan