EPA says two cruise lines polluted the air last year

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants two cruise lines to pay for violating Alaska air pollution laws.

Following up on emission tests from last summer, the EPA has recommended administrative fines for two cruise ship companies, including a $110,000 fine for Princess Cruises and a $55,000 fine for Norwegian Cruise Line. Princess' fines are for alleged air pollution in Seward. Norwegian's violations are alleged to have occurred in Juneau.

Norwegian Cruise Line officials didn't want to discuss the recommended fines. They consider it a pending legal matter.

Dean Brown, president of Princess Tours, said the company has been cooperating with the EPA since it was informed of the violations. The company knows about the recommended fines and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue, he said.

``I think the incidents were regrettable,'' Brown said. ``They were due to technical and operational issues at the time. These new, modern ships are sophisticated and complex.''

He said that several ship systems can contribute to visible smokestack emissions, and Princess is continuing to manage those systems to reduce smoke.

The EPA has used a smoke opacity test to determine the two cruise lines were violating the law. It's based on a zero to 100 scale, with zero meaning there's no visible smoke and 100 meaning the smoke completely blocks visibility.

State law states that, with certain conditions, a reading of 20 or more on that scale is a violation. Since the state's budget doesn't allow for the Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce Alaska's law, the EPA is, under law, compelled to enforce the law for the state, said Steve Torok, a Juneau EPA official.

Princess and Norwegian were two of six cruise ship companies who were sent notices of violations last year. The administrative complaints against Princess and Norwegian were announced today. The EPA is still reviewing the other possible violations, which allegedly took place in Juneau, Glacier Bay and Seward and involved more than a dozen ships, an EPA official said last year.

Marcia Combes, director of the EPA's Alaska office, said she'd like to see cruise ship companies obey the law rather than recommend they be fined.

``Polluting the very environment from which these companies profit is completely unacceptable to Alaskans,'' said Marcia Combes, the director of the EPA's Alaska office. ``We're continuing to monitor the cruise ships and if we find they're breaking the law, we'll take strong action. The bottom line is that the people of Alaska demand that the cruise ship companies obey pollution laws. Of course our preference is for the cruise ship companies to comply with the law rather than violate it.''

The smoke coming from cruise ships can contain a wide range of particles that can lead to respiratory disease, according to the EPA.

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