Editorial Page drags itself back to work

The Wisconsin State Journal weirdly returns to a subject that almost no one in Madison is talking about — the aging S.S. Badger vehicle and passenger ferry that travels across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington, Michigan.

In August, the Journal devoted an editorial “Don’t sink slice of Americana”  to this very same subject (jeepers! using the same photo) and we found it surprising then. It’s not an un-important topic, after all the 59-year-old, coal-fired, smoke-belching vessel is kind of a nostalgic throwback to a time when coal-fired, smoke-belching trains also crisscrossed the landscape… which is 1) cool to think about (it really is) and 2) hey, this old ship still provides jobs in Manitowoc and Ludington.

Today’s editorial does nothing to explain the damage done by the S.S. Badger. (They did better, if not great, in the August editorial.)  The problem is, the ship dumps 5 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan every day it operates, and the coal ash contains mercury, arsenic and other poisons.  That’s why the EPA told the S.S Badger owners it’s got to stop — find another way to power that ship or shut her down. The EPA gave them 5 operating seasons to do that, until the end of 2012.

Good Ferry?

Bad Ferry?

Should the S.S. Badger owners be given still more time to fix their ship? Are they showing a good faith effort to do so? Are they stalling and trying to find enough political influence to buy an exemption, perhaps permanently, through “historic landmark designation” for the ship?

We don’t know. The State Journal acts like it does.

And we’re still puzzled, more than ever — how does this issue manage to get two State Journal editorials in just over 4 months?