State settles with RCCL

Agreement ends suit against cruise line for Inside Passage pollution

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2000

The state has found money to monitor cruise ship emissions and boost Southeast's spill-response ability.

The cash is coming from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

Alaska sued the cruise line after it admitted to dumping oily bilge water into Lynn Canal and water laced with toxic waste into Gastineau Channel last year. A $3.5 million settlement was announced at about noon today by Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho.

``I think it should be seen within the context of a broader effort to work with and educate industry about its obligation to the people and pristine environment of Alaska,'' he said. ``We are prepared to go to court and strictly enforce our laws against any company that through negligence or intent violates those laws.''

Royal Caribbean officials at the company's Miami headquarters were not available for comment.

The bulk of the settlement money, $2.1 million, will be spent to buy spill response equipment for use in Southeast, and the company will be required to form or join an areawide spill response group. That requirement will last for the five-year life of the agreement.

Some $250,000 will go toward a five-year smokestack emission monitoring program for Southeast, which would begin to address a longtime concern for downtown Juneau residents, said Botelho. A contractor will be hired to check every regularly scheduled cruise ship at least once each season.

Also, the company has agreed not to dump any wastewater, black or gray, within three miles of Alaska's coast.

Other settlement terms include:

$700,000 would go into an account to be used to mitigate spills of hazardous waste and oil in Southeast.

$250,000 will be spent by the company to fund a spill response strategy study.

$25,000 to help defray the cost of the state's legal proceedings.

Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat, was pleased with the settlement, but said more needs to be done.

``I think it's great,'' he said. ``The settlement reflects an agreement on some historical issues. It doesn't necessary resolve the monitoring and partnership issues that need to be agreed on in the future.''

The state sued the cruise line after federal officials announced a settlement last summer that included admissions of pollution in Southeast Alaska waters.

Under a plea agreement between Royal Caribbean and federal prosecutors, the company paid $6.5 million for violations in Alaska waters. Royal Caribbean agreed to pay a total of $18 million for 21 felony violations of federal environmental law in the six U.S. jurisdictions.



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