The Juneau Empire reports that Alaska just weakened its wastewater regulations at the cruise industry's request. Cruise ships are now permitted to dump greater amount of ammonia (from fecal matter), copper, nickel and zinc in Alaska's pristine waters.
The newspaper reports that the cruise industry is "pleased" and and "appreciates" the new wastewater discharge rules.
The cruise industry bullied Alaska, threatening the state with pulling cruise ships from Alaska if the wastewater standards were not relaxed. Some cruise lines planned to reduce time in the ports in Alaska, so that they could sail outside of state waters and dump wastewater without being subject to Alaska's strict standards.
Cruise lines have been toying with Alaska even since its citizens passed an initiative to increase taxes and enact wastewater regulations to protect Alaskan waters from massively polluting cruise ships. On Earth Day last week, the New York Times characterized cruise lines as "notorious polluters."
The cruise industry is having its way with Alaska at this point.
It's agenda was first to wiggle out of Alaska's taxes, but the tax issue was never about whether the $46 head tax was too high. The cruise lines didn't pay the tax in the first place. Cruise passengers did. It is ludicrous to suggest that a family would decide to cruise if the tax were $34 but not cruise at $46.
The real issue has always been the issue of whether the cruise industry would permit a state like Alaska to regulate it. State of the art pollution technology is expensive. Cruise lines don't pay any Federal taxes on the $35,000,000,000 they collect on fares each year from tax paying Americans. They don't want to set a precedent of allowing states to impose standards to protect their natural resources. It's cheaper to pollute.
Earlier this year, the cruise industry twisted the arms of some of the Republican legislators in Alaska and kicked green water scientist Gershon Cohen off of the state's wastewater panel. This was pay back for Mr. Cohen's work in passing the regulations which strengthened Alaska's environmental regulations. With Mr. Cohen removed from the panel, it was easy pickings to gut the pollution standards to benefit the polluters.
A few weeks ago, Alaska announced it was reducing it's "head tax" on cruise passenger by 25%. Today, it has relaxed its pollution regulations. All of this is working exactly as the cruise industry planned after a year of threats and lawsuits.
The Juneau Empire printed a letter from an Alaskan reader "Beaten Up By Bullies."
It's amazing to see how a "notorious polluting" Miami-based industry which collects $35 billion a year tax-free can threaten and bully Alaska to get exactly what it wants - reduced state taxes, relaxed pollution laws, and more profits . . .
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Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream