Badger’s competitor owns coal mine; Sen. Durbin received financing from coal

December 26, 2012
Sheldon Lubar

Sheldon Lubar

Two very outspoken opponents to the S.S. Badger carferry’s use of coal seem to actually benefit financially from coal.

The owner of the Milwaukee to Muskegon car ferry, owns stock in a coal plant while Illinois’ senior senator received nearly $53,000 in campaign contributions from coal-related industries.

Sheldon B. Lubar, who owns Lake Express of Milwaukee with his sons, has been outspoken about the Badger dumping coal ash into Lake Michigan. Recently he blasted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for endorsing Ludington-based Lake Michigan Carferry’s request to extend its coal discharge exemption for the Badger.

However, the 82-year-old Milwaukee businessman owns stock in Hallador Energy Company of

The SS Badger at its Manitowoc dock.

The SS Badger at its Manitowoc dock.

Denver, Colo., according to his company’s website, Hallador owns Sunrise Coal, LLC.

“Sunrise Coal, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hallador Energy Company, owns and operates an underground coal mine located in Carlisle, Indiana,” according to “Sunrise mines approximately three million tons per year and sells about 90 percent of its coal to several Indiana utilities. Customers take delivery via Sunrise’s 100-car double rail loop with four-hour certified batch load-out. The loop is connected to both the CSX Railroad and possesses some running rights to the Indiana Rail Road (INRD).”

“The 290 employees at Sunrise operate four units of underground mining equipment using the room-and-pillar method. Our No. 5 coal seam is 350′-440′ deep and is accessed through a 2,400′ drivable, dual-use slope.”

In October, Lubar’s letter to Walker accused the governor of supporting pollution by coal.

“You and your administration have chosen to support a Michigan-based business that pollutes our waters despite the availability of cost-effective solutions to become compliant,” Lubar wrote. “We are disappointed in your support of Lake Michigan Carferry. We think you are supporting the wrong company,” Lubar wrote.

The Lake Express leaving Muskegon harbor.

The Lake Express leaving Muskegon harbor.

Lubar also owns stock in several energy companies, many of which operate various natural gas companies. One of the options LMC is seeking is to fuel the Badger with liquified natural gas.

Another outspoken opponent of the continuation of the Badger’s use of coal has been Sen. Dick Durbin (Dem) of Illinois, although his state is one of the largest coal users in the country. According to, Illinois was ranked as number 5 in the nation for use of coal power plants.

In addition, Durbin, the Senate majority leader, received $19,000 in campaign contributions from CSX Corporation, which proclaims itself as the largest transporter of coal east of the Mississippi River.

Sen. Dick Durbin

Sen. Dick Durbin

Durbin also received $17,000 from Exelon Corporation which owns several coal burning plants. He also received $16,000 from Ameren Corporation, the second largest producer of electricity in Illinois. Ameren gets 64% of its electricity from coal, according to the website

Campaign contributions were between 2007 and 2012. That information can be found here.

The Badger’s exemption for coal discharge expired last week. According to LMC officials, the Badger will be able to continue to operate its route between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wis., until the EPA renews or denies the exemption. A company spokesperson has stated the company is confident it will operate in 2013.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the S.S. Badger. It is the last coal-burning ferries on the Great Lakes.

Story by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief




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