Legislation sponsored by the Parnell administration in Alaska aimed at relaxing the state’s cruise ship wastewater discharge rules has now cleared both the House and Senate Resources Committees. HB80, the House equivalent to SB29, cleared on Wednesday, after all seven Republicans on the committee voted to advance the bill, while the panel’s two Democrats argued it needed more work.
One Homer Republican, Paul Seaton, also agreed the current version of the bill required work, but did not want to block the legislation from advancing to the next committee. Seaton expressed worry that HB80 would allow mixing zones, where multiple cruise ships can discharge wastewater in the same area and affect the environment. He also expressed concern about reverting back to the lax pollution control methods prior to the 2006 citizen initiative that improved regulations.
“The mixing zones are being given. They’re not going to be really monitored,” said Seaton. “The individual vessels can become lax again, like they were in the past.”
Democrats Geran Tarr and Chris Tuck, both of Anchorage, attempted to offer several amendments to the bill, including imposing limits on where and when vessels would be allowed to discharge the wastewater. Tarr argued that reducing wastewater regulations might harm local fish like salmon and expose them to heavy metals like copper, which is still used in the onboard wastewater systems of some cruise vessels.
“In five years, we’ll have missed the boat in terms of protecting [fish],” said Tarr. “So, hopefully we won’t look back on this and really regret our move today.”
Tarr spoke about California’s wastewater standards during the review, which Republican Craig Johnson dismissed. He claims California’s policy is “just say no,” and this is not the kind of policy he believes is best for Alaska.
“I do not want to be compared to California. I do not want to be a state that just says no,” Johnson said. “I want to be a state that continues to work with industry, and maybe we can turn off that ‘Not Open for Business’ sign that we seem to have placed at the borders of our state.”
HB80 has yet to be scheduled in another House committee. Meanwhile, SB29 has cleared the Senate Resources Committee and is currently awaiting a hearing the Finance Committee.
If Alaska is willing to reduce the standards of wastewater regulation for cruise ships, there’s no telling what other regulations they might try to reduce as well. Cruise ship safety standards have already been under strict review, especially following the tragic Costa Concordia capsizing accident on Jan. 13, 2012. Instead of trying to impose tougher regulations to protect the safety of passengers, crewmembers and marine life, the Parnell Administration may be setting itself up for a future of complications with the cruise industry.
Anyone who has ever been involved in an accident or been injured because of lax safety standards onboard a vessel has the right to turn to an attorney for assistance.
The cruise lawyers at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. are here to help victims obtain justice for their pain and suffering and await your call to discuss how we can protect your rights.