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 of $110,000 for Princess Cruises and $55,000 for Norwegian Cruise Line. Princess' fines are for alleged air pollution in Seward. Norwegian is alleged to have soiled the skies above 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.''
Several ship systems can contribute to visible smokestack emissions, he said, and Princess is continuing to manage those systems to reduce smoke.
The EPA 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.
Under state law, a reading of 20 or more on that scale is a violation.
Princess' fine is twice that of Norwegian because violations were observed coming out of the smokestacks of two ships -- the Sun Princess and the Dawn Princess. Norwegian was found to have one ship in violation -- the Norwegian Dynasty.
Princess and Norwegian were two of six cruise ship companies that were sent notices of violations last year. The others were Holland America Line-Westours, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and World Explorer.
The administrative complaints against Princess and Norwegian were announced Thursday, and the EPA is still reviewing the other possible violations. Those violations took place in Juneau, Glacier Bay and Seward and involved 13 ships, according to Don Dossett, an EPA spokesman in Seattle.
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,'' she said. ``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.''
An EPA inspection in June of this year also found smoke from four cruise ships in Juneau that appeared to be in violation of federal and state air pollution limits. The EPA is still reviewing those tests.
Also, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has had a contractor perform 35 opacity tests on cruise ship smoke this year, said Mike Conway, director of DEC's Division of Statewide Public Service. He said the results of those tests will be reviewed next week.
The smoke coming from cruise ships can contain a wide range of particles that can lead to respiratory disease, according to Steve Torok, a Juneau EPA official.
``It's particulate matter,'' he said. ``That's what you're reading with the opacity test. That's inhaled, and it's not healthy.''
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