Self regulation of tourism is a poor idea

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2000

Boy, I'm impressed with all the earnest hand-wringing and weeping and wailing being done by the cruise ship industry in reaction to the EPA's citing them for air pollution discharges. The industry's words seem cynical and deceitful.

Several years ago the state of Alaska had an air pollution monitor on site in Juneau, who routinely watched for air emission violations. If any were noted, the offenders were cited and sometimes fined. This monitoring program was totally self-financing by modest fees imposed at the time and, I suppose, by any fines assessed. The cruise ship industry was outraged then at what they considered unfair treatment by the state. Imagine, being made to comply with air emission standards.

So, by the time-honored method of lobbying and spreading enough money around, the industry persuaded a compliant Legislature to cancel the monitoring program. The legislative majority, in its infinite wisdom and tradition of selling out the public good for industry interests, killed an emission monitoring program which worked, paid for itself and even returned surplus money to the treasury. The cruise ship industry would ``self-regulate'' - we were earnestly and sincerely assured with straight faces. Now, we're seeing some of the results of self-regulation by this industry. Federal cases for air emission violations and illegal discharge of oily wastes in Alaska's waters. All the major cruise lines are represented. But when the fox is put in charge of the henhouse what can you expect?

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Alaska's elected leaders abdicated their responsibility and the feds had to step in. Have we heard this tune somewhere before? Will we hear it again? Hmmm, let me think.

And, now the flightseeing industry is earnestly, sincerely and with straight faces promising to ``self-regulate.'' Will our local political leaders now stick their heads in the sand, sell out to the industry and evade their responsibilities too? We'll see.

Anne Pennington

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