Cruise Ship Compromise Sails Through House
(JUNEAU) - The House passed landmark environmental legislation today to ensure that cruise ships operate in Alaska waters under a comprehensive new wastewater monitoring program that will give the state the strictest discharge standards in the nation.
House Bill 260 will reassure Alaskans that the ships can continue making a positive contribution to Alaska's economy, while preserving the clean marine environment that Alaskans rely on for jobs, recreation and sustenance, said Rep. Eldon Mulder (R-Anchorage), co-chair of the House Finance Committee, which introduced it.
"What we saw with HB 260 represents a triumph of the public process," Mulder said. "The concerned parties all came together and worked hard to deliver an environmental protection bill that is second to none. We may have weathered some rough seas along the way, but by working together we got a bill that protects Alaska's critical need for a clean environment, as well as ship operators' desire for fair and defensible discharge standards."
As passed by the House, HB 260 would:
The final version of the bill resulted from a compromise that combines the most important elements of various legislative initiatives supported by the Republican Majority, the Democratic Minority, the Knowles administration, cruise ship lines, and committed members of the Alaska public, Mulder said.
"This represents a pioneering achievement in ensuring that a growing part of the visitor industry doesn't adversely affect the environment people come here to enjoy," Mulder said. "It became possible due to the willingness of a lot of people to come together in an atmosphere in which we could work toward a positive resolution we could all support." He credited the achievement to:
One of the nation's most popular cruise ship destinations, Alaska welcomes cruise ships that will bring in an estimated 680,000 passengers this year on hundreds of port calls. As "floating cities" that can carry 1,000 or more passengers, these ships produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of graywater, such as shower runoff, and blackwater, or human waste, each day.
Revelations that some ships have been releasing unacceptably high level of effluent in and near state waters has forced federal regulators to acknowledge that current regulations are inadequate. U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski of Alaska recently won passage of federal law that authorizes, but does not yet impose, stricter discharge standards.
"Clean oceans and pure water are critical to Alaska, not just to the visitor industry, but to everyone in the state," said Mulder. "The compromise we have reached in House Bill 260 will go a long way towards making sure Alaskans and visitors alike can trust that our marine environment will remain clean for generations to come."
HB 260 passed by a vote of 35-3, and moves to the Senate for consideration.
# # #
Audio comments are available on the Majority Actuality line:
= Eldon Mulder, 49 K = Eldon Mulder, 34 K
= Brian Porter, 124 K