Tlingit And Haida Indian Tribes Of Alaska Protest Cruise Ship Wastewater Bill In Alaska

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

While Alaskan officials work quickly to move a bill through the House and Senate that will reduce regulations for cruise ship wastewater dumping, not everyone in “The Last Frontier” state agrees with the proposed lax rules.

The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska are opposing the bill that would change how the state regulates cruise ship wastewater. The council, which represents about 28,000 people, submitted their disapproval in a letter to lawmakers Friday. The council is urging legislators to rethink the bill, arguing that it would lower the quality and protection of the pristine waters in the area. The council also charged that the proposal was not based on up-to-date scientific facts.

The facts that the council is referencing stem from a preliminary report prepared by a science advisory panel that examined cruise ship pollution in Alaska. Gov. Sean Parnell’s Environmental Conservation commissioner, Larry Hartig, said the proposal would even out the playing field for cruise ships who don’t have discharge permits, as opposed to those that do. Additionally, the bill would call for the authorization of mixing zones if ships are able to meet certain standards for the treatment of the wastewater discharge. According to Hartig, the department can set restrictions for mixing zones, but from what our cruise ship attorneys here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. – along with other maritime activists – have come to realize, is that restrictions don’t tend to mean much for some cruise line companies.

Critics argue the legislation – SB29 in the Senate and HB80 in the House – would roll-back provisions of a 2006 citizen initiative that required cruise ships to meet state water quality standards when dumping wastewater.

However, Hartig retorted that in 2009, cruise companies weren’t able to meet the stricter standard set out by the initiative, at least for certain pollutants. The government in Alaska ultimately passed legislation allowing the department to temporarily allow cruise ships to have mixing zones and also called for the advisory panel.

Yet, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out with the bills. Even a scientist on the panel testified that she disagrees with several of the report’s findings and believes the legislation should undergo further review before being finalized.

Unfortunately, it appears as though the legislation is moving rather quickly, having already cleared the House and Senate. HB80 and SB29 are scheduled for public comment in Senate Finance Committee. If the bills pass, there is no telling how much pollution will be dumped in Alaska.

Even with the strict regulations that are currently in place, some cruise line companies don’t really care to abide by them. In December, one of the most well-known and respected liners, Princess Cruises, was fined $20,000 after one of its vessels, the Golden Princess, released pool water into the historically clean environment and ecosystem of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska in May 2011. This was a direct violation of the Clean Water Act, but despite the many rules in place that protect the environment, it seems as though cruise companies are not taking the necessary steps they need to modify their vessels to the appropriate safety standards.

Only time will tell whether the industry will move in the right direction or revert to even laxer regulations. In the meantime, our cruise ship attorneys are ready to offer help to anyone who has been the victim of a violation of safety standards onboard a vessel. We can help you obtain compensation for your pain and suffering, so give us a call today to discuss your options and protect your rights

Photo Credits:

Top Right: Cruise ship wastewater – skift.com
Bottom Left: Cruise ship sailing Alaska – yeahthatskosher.com