Huizenga and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker were among elected officials praising the agreement Friday.

"Too often local businesses are forced to close their doors due to Washington's heavy-handed regulatory bureaucracy," Huizenga said. "I applaud Lake Michigan Carferry for successfully navigating the bureaucratic fog and overcoming the unprecedented regulatory hurdles placed before them."

Environmental groups said the EPA should have ordered the company to stop its coal ash dumping immediately.

"Why wait two years to do the right thing when we can start today?" said Melissa Damaschke, the Great Lakes program director with Sierra Club. "It's far past time for the S.S. Badger to begin to utilize cleaner alternatives for healthier residents and a cleaner environment."

Durbin also criticized the deal.

"The S.S. Badger, the filthiest ship on the Great Lakes, has been given two more years to dump hundreds of tons of dangerous coal ash into Lake Michigan," Durbin said in a statement. "The millions of people who live, work and play in and around this beautiful Lake should be outraged that this filthy ship will continue to operate."

Hedman said if the EPA had denied Lake Michigan Carferry's permit application instead of negotiating the deal, the company could have filed appeals that would take years to resolve. The consent decree is the quickest route to a solution and would be enforced by the courts, she said.

The company said it would need two years to design and install a "sophisticated ash retention system" for the ship. It said after the ash is brought to shore, it will be "disposed of or recycled in an approved manner."

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