JUNEAU — The Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska is opposing a bill that would change how Alaska regulates cruise ship wastewater.
The council represents about 28,000 people. In a letter that was being distributed to lawmakers Friday, the council said the proposal would lower water quality protections and the proposal wasn’t based on the best available science.
Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill stems from a preliminary report by a science advisory panel charged with looking at cruise ship pollution. Parnell’s Environmental Conservation commissioner, Larry Hartig, has said the proposal would align rules for cruise ships with those for others that get discharge permits from the agency.
The bill also would allow authorization of mixing zones if ships meet certain standards for treatment of discharge. Hartig has said the department can set restrictions for mixing zones.
Critics say the proposal — SB29 in the Senate, HB80 in the House —would roll-back provisions of a citizen initiative requiring cruise ships meet state water quality standards when dumping wastewater.
A House vote on HB80 could come as early as Monday.
Hartig said in 2009 cruise companies weren’t meeting the more rigorous standard set out by the initiative, at least for certain pollutants. The Alaska Cruise Association, in written testimony to the House Resources Committee, said 45 organizations and local governments had passed resolutions at the time, urging action.
Lawmakers ultimately passed legislation allowing the department to temporarily let cruise ships have mixing zones. The measure also called for the advisory panel.
A scientist on the panel has testified that she disagrees with several of the report’s findings and understood it would undergo further review before being finalized.