The issue of cruise ship wastewater is set to make what is perhaps its final appearance in the Legislature today.
House Bill 80, legislation aimed at changing water quality requirements for cruise ships and other large passenger vessels in Alaska waters, was held on its third reading until Feb. 19.
Last week the Alaska State Senate voted down five attempts to amend Governor Sean Parnell’s cruise ship wastewater bill. While voting in mostly lopsided opposition to all five amendments, Senators did not vote on the main body of legislation during Wednesday’s floor session.
Sen. Dennis Egan introduced an amendment that would allow cruise ships to continue to use a current Department of Environmental Conservation water quality exclusion which allows cruise ship the use of mixing zones to meet water quality criteria until the year 2020, according to the amendment. This extends for seven more years DEC’s exclusion of the 2006 citizens initiative requirement that cruise ship wastewater effluent meet water quality standards “at the point of discharge.”
Egan said he applauds the cruise industry for advancing its wastewater treatment as far as it has.
“There are ships today that are meeting water quality standards nine out of 10 times,” Egan said.
Cruise ships that have trouble meeting current criteria can already receive exclusions through 2015, Egan said.
“This amendment extends that to 2020,” Egan said. “It doesn’t kick any ship out of Alaska. It gives them a chance to update technology for five more years.”
Sen. Cathy Giessel R-Anchorage was the main spokesperson for the opposition to amending the governor’s bill during Senate deliberations on Feb. 13. She said there was no need to amend HB 80 as the Department of Environmental Conservation already enacts regulation that controls cruise ship effluent. And with a no-roll-back rule on water quality criteria ADEC will continue to ratchet up requirements for new and more effective treatment technology and practices, she said.
Giessel pointed to the preliminary report from a Science Advisory Panel created by the state Legislature in 2009. The panel met over a dozen times to discuss wastewater treatment technology and science and provide reports to the DEC wastewater division in 2013 and a final in 2015. In its preliminary report to the state the panel said it found no technology existing or on the horizon that could bring cruise ship discharge up to water quality standards in ammonia, copper, zinc, and nickel at the point of discharge.
The Senate voted down Egan’s amendment 10 to seven. Of the four other amendments introduced on Feb. 13 none received more than five affirmative votes. Sens. Gary Stevens R-Kodiak, Lyman Hoffman D-Bethel and Donald Olson D-Golovin were on excused absence.
House Bill 80 passed through House committees, a full vote of the house and the one Senate committee to which it was referred without amendments. If the Senate passes HB 80 today it moves on to the governor for final approval.
For more information on Gov. Parnell’s vessel wastewater legislation visit www.legis.state.ak.us and search of House Bill 80.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.