A real chance for cruise ship progress

Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Never mind who blinked - or should not have blinked - partisan gamesmanship, high-stakes bluffs, hissy fits, competing news conferences, lock-outs, "inhumane" this and "no slights of hand" that.

The governor and the president of the Senate and the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee have shown enough flexibility for the rest of us to hold out the hope that the upcoming special session of the Legislature will be productive.

This is to be a tightly focused, one-topic session. Not much room for misunderstanding the issue. By adjournment, the state will have its own regulations to govern cruise ship discharges or it will not. If not, it will rely on federal legislation and the best efforts of the cruise ship industry. A reality check tells us that will be a temporary fix. The issue will not go away on that basis, but it will go away if there is honest, open debate and an appropriate vote.

Having already agreed to a tough but fair compromise version of such legislation in the House, there is no doubt that the cruise ship industry is willing to accept a specific legal standard that will put the issue behind us.

The cruise ship industry does not want a negative public image. It does want good PR, all the better to be financially successful. The industry's financial success can be Juneau's and Alaska's financial success, too.

Part of acquiring such an image is based on performance. The fewer spills, the better. The less smokestack discharges, the better. The more innovations of the on-shore, power-hookup type now being developed in Juneau, the better. The more receptive the industry is to fair, workable regulation, the better. The cruise ship industry knows this. That's why the industry was willing to sign a contract to be a good environmental citizen in the absence of a state law requiring good citizenship.

What does not make sense is a handful of legislators trying to protect the industry more than it wants to be protected.

What also does not make sense is for cruise ships to operate in our waters but outside our laws.

Unlike a week ago, the special session now offers the prospect of resolution. That's a big step in the right direction.

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