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 Ship Pollution - Wastewater - EmissionsCruise 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 . . .

 

For additional information, consider reading:

Polluting Cruise Industry Tries Again to Avoid Alaskan Regulations

 

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian’s Flickr photostream

There is an interesting article today in the Juneau Empire "Legislators Debate Removal of Cruise Panel Member Cohen – Cruise Ally Defends Removal of Industry Foe."

Craig Johnson - Cruise Line Supporter - Alaska The article points out that a Republican legislator, Craig Johnson (photo left), is defending the removal of waste water scientist Gershon Cohen (photo below) from a cruise ship science advisory panel at the insistence of the cruise industry. Representative Johnson is quoted as stating: "I applaud the department for doing the right thing and depoliticizing the panel."

"Depoliticizing the panel?"  

Representative Johnson is known for co-sponsoring a bill to repeal a water-pollution provision in a cruise-ship law that voters approved in 2006.  The Alaskan law prevents state regulators from granting "mixing zones" to cruise ships which would permit the ships’ pollution discharge to exceed state standards.  The cruise industry has been lobbying heavily to avoid the strict pollution regulations in Alaska. 

Dumping Mr. Cohen overboard is an end run around environmental laws which protect Alaskan waters.   

While representative Johnson supports sinking Mr. Cohen (who has a master’s degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in environmental policy), he supports the appointment of an employee of a law firm which represents the cruise industry on water regulatory issues.

The waste water panel includes Mr. Lincoln Loehr, who is described as a paralegal employed by the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP.  Mr. Loehr works with lawyers who represent the interests of cruise Cruise Ship Pollution - Alaskalines and other large corporate polluters.  In addition to cruise lines, the Stoel Rives law firm brochure states that their lawyers represent the interests of:

 .  .  . chemical plants, mines, power plants, pulp and paper mills, ranches, food processors, steel mills and real estate developers.

The law firm advertises its ability to handle water quality matters "that can severely impact business operations."

Representative Johnson is also quoted in the article as questioning climate change and arguing that science is too often being "politicized."  While claiming to want to "depoliticize" the panel by removing Mr. Cohen, representative Johnson actually wants to politicize the panel with friends of the cruise industry.  

Democratic representative Beth Kerttula stated the obvious: "A number of us have grave, grave Gershon Cohen - Green Waterconcerns about the agency’s behavior and about the credibility of the panel as it will now be." 

We pointed out in a prior blog article that Mr. Cohen assisted Alaska in adopting laws to protect its waters from cruise ship pollution.

Representative Johnson and other Republican legislators fit squarely in the cruise industry’s pocket.  Dumping Mr. Cohen is pay back, pure and simple, for his protection of Alaska against the $35 billion cruise industry’s corporate practices. With Mr. Cohen out of the picture, the cruise industry will pressure its friends on the panel members to devise water quality matters with the cruise industry’s business interests in mind.   

The issue is not an academic debate. Just take a look at how one cruise line, Princess Cruises, repeatedly violated Alaskan waster water regulations:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska waste water quality standards.  Again, in October, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess – together with the Golden Princess – were cited for water discharge violations.

In November, the same culprits – the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.

The result of a cruise industry dominated waste water panel will be greater discharges of copper, ammonia, zinc, bacteria and fecal matter into Alaska’s pristine waters.

Coral Princess - Alaska - Pollution - Waste Water Violations

 

If you are interested in other articles regarding cruise pollution, consider reading some of our other articles:

Super Ships – Rogues on the High Seas

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel – "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

New Report Details Cruise Industry’s Record of Pollution

Also consider reading:

"Cruise on Down to our Dumping Ground

 

Credits:

Representative Craig Johnson                  Alaskan State Legislature

Gershon Cohen                    Clean Water Network

Coral Princess     AP via New York Time "Cruise Lines Face More Policing of Waste Disposal"

Newspapers in Alaska are reporting that the cruise industry is behind the sudden removal of a highly qualified green water scientist from an advisory council on cruise ship waste water discharge.

Gershon Cohen - Cruise Pollution - AlaskaIn December 2009, the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") invited environmental scientist Gershon Cohen to join the state’s cruise ship waste water treatment science panel.  The advisory panel has 11 members, with experts in naval architecture, marine engineering and waste water treatment. A representative of the cruise industry sits on the panel as well.

However, the DEC Commissioner, Larry Hartig, disinvited Cohen due to what is described in the newspapers as "corporate influence and pressure" by the cruise industry.

Dr. Cohen is one of the foremost experts in the world on water pollution and clean water technologies.  He has a background in biological sciences, with a Masters Degree in Molecular Biology.  He also is educated in water policy law, with a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy.  Dr. Cohen co-founded the Alaska Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) in 1992, which played a lead role in numerous successful clean-water campaigns. Dr. Cohen founded the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters (C-SAW), a project of the Earth Island Institute in 1998, to protect public waters from the discharge of toxic pollutants.

In response to Dr. Cohen’s unceremonious ouster, a group of Democratic legislators have written a letter to Governor Parnell, complaining of the "corporate abuse" by the cruise lines, and requesting that Dr. Cohen be re-instated. In an article entitled "Lawmakers Call on Parnell to Reinstate Dismissed Scientist," Senator Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, is quoted as stating:

"That is not how we should be doing business . . . When we’re talking about positions that deal with  sensitive environmental issues, the protection of Alaska waters, the protection of Alaska lands we should not be letting industry dictate who’s on commissions, who’s on panels—absolutely, positively not." 

Pristine Waters - Alaska - Gershon Cohen - Cruise Ship PollutionCruise lines are not happy with Dr. Cohen because, as a clean water advocate, he has spent decades advising Alaska about cruise ship water discharge.  In 2006, he was successful in assisting the state of Alaska in adopting an initiative to protect Alaskan waters by requiring the placement of "Ocean Rangers" on cruise ships to monitor discharges.  This program has been successful in preventing cruise lines from dumping pollutants into Alaskan waters and catching them when they do.  There have been 30 violations of Alaska Wastewater Quality Standards by cruise lines in the last six months alone, mostly by Princess Cruises which repeatedly discharged high levels of ammonium and fecal matter into Alaska’s pristine waters.  

Getting Dr. Cohen fired from the panel was pay back by the cruise industry. 

The editorials in the Alaskan newspapers unanimously oppose the cruise industry’s behind-the-scenes removal of Dr. Cohen.

In an editorial "Our View: Odd Firing," the Anchorage Daily News reports: "It’s hard to imagine a more qualified applicant. He stands out among Alaska environmentalists for his thorough knowledge of cruise ship wastewater issues . . . Cohen likely would push for the best available technology, period, and as soon as possible."

We have seen the cruise industry maneuver behind the scenes in the past to try and protect its interests. 

In 2007 when Congress was studying the problem of shipboard sexual assaults, our client Laurie Dishman was invited by a Congressional sub-committee to testify regarding her horrific experience of being strangled and raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  When she reported the crime, the cruise ship doctor gave her a garbage bag and told her to go back to her cabin and collect the evidence herself.   The cruise line thereafter refused to provide her with the name of the rapist or even provide her with copies of her own shipboard medical records. When Royal Caribbean realized that Ms. Dishman had contacted her Congresswoman and was going to be testify, it lobbied certain Congressional members to strike Ms. Dishman from the panel.  It failed.  As a result of Ms. Dishman’s testimony, the House of Representatives passed the "Cruise Safety and Security Act of 2009."   

The people of Alaska face a easy choice.  Do you want an expert who has the education, training and experience to protect your pristine waters?    Or will you let the Miami based cruise industry – which is still polluting your waters – dictate the quality of your air and water by making deals behind closed doors?  As concluded by the Anchorage Daily News: 

"One of the primary reasons Alaska cruising may well be the world’s cleanest is because activists like Cohen have fought for it. The industry may not welcome him — but that’s no reason for the state to throw him off the panel."

 Cruise Ship Pollution - Alaska

 

We have written about cruise ship dumping, cruise waste discharges and air emissions, and the cruise industry’s shenanigans in Alaska in prior articles:   

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel – "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

New Report Details Cruise Industry’s Record of Pollution

Polluting Cruise Industry Files Lawsuit to Avoid Alaskan Tax

The "Alaska" Cruise Association’s Lawsuit Against Alaska – Pay Back By Tax-Avoiding Miami Cruise Lines

Carnival Announces Quarterly Profits of $1,100,000,000 – But Pushes Lawsuit Against Alaska Over $50 Tax

Cruise Industry Exaggerates Effect of $50 Alaska Tax and Hides Financial Information

 

Credits:

Dr. Cohen photograph                                   Conservation Institute

Kayak in Alaskan waters photograph            Conservation Institute