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INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mitch Daniels says Indiana will not retreat from its decision to allow the BP oil refinery in Whiting to release more pollutants into Lake Michigan.

At a news conference this morning, The Times asked Daniels whether he considered the more lenient wastewater permit the state has approved for BP a done deal.

"Yes," Daniels replied. "We've checked it and rechecked it. They're in complete compliance with Indiana law, which is tougher than the federal law. The EPA has checked and rechecked it, and they have approved that permit more than once. To me, the public interest says it should go forward.

"We've got thousands of jobs that will be at risk if it doesn't go forward. And I would only point out that people who are upset about $3 gas now know why it's that high. Reported as recently as last weekend, the No. 1 reason for $3 gasoline is the lack of refinery capacity in this country, and here's one of the biggest steps forward for the Midwest and really the whole nation. And I don't think it should be held up without a good scientific reason, and none has been provided."

The new wastewater discharge permit, which BP says is needed to proceed with a $3 billion plant expansion, allows the refinery to increase daily ammonia output 54 percent and release 35 percent more suspended solids -- silty materials leftover after wastewater is treated and filtered. While significantly greater than current levels, the increased discharges still fall within federal limits.

Environmentalists and politicians from Illinois and other neighboring states have been putting public pressure on Daniels to revoke the permit. And BP received a closed-door rebuke Tuesday from several Great Lakes members of Congress.

For more, read The Times on Thursday.

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