Stephen Johnson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, came to Alaska to gain the first-hand knowledge of issues affecting the state, he said.
His trip included a stop in Juneau on Friday.
"My visit here is to observe," said Johnson, who was appointed to head the agency in May.
At the invitation of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Johnson had traveled throughout the state for several days.
In Juneau, Johnson toured the cruise ship Sun Princess to understand what the cruise ship company has done to minimize its pollution to Alaska's air and water.
Kirby Day, director of operations for Princess Cruise in Alaska, showed Johnson the ship's recycling program.
Crew members of Sun Princess separate plastics, paper, glass and food products on board. They burn some waste in the ship's incinerator and off-load some recyclables at ports such as Vancouver.
In Juneau, the ship's crew crushes aluminum cans into cubes and gives the cubes to local Boy Scouts, who sell them to buy camping equipment.
Day also showed Johnson the ship's marine sanitation device, which processes the wastewater on board so it is clean enough to be discharged into the ocean.
Because the ship was hooked up to AEL&P's power line during its port call in Juneau, it emitted no air pollution. Without the shoreside power, the ship would have had to run one of its four generators.
"It's a significant step to help with the air quality," Johnson said.
Johnson said cruise ships also could consider using low-sulfur fuel instead of diesel.
In January 2001 and in June 2004, the EPA finalized the Clean Diesel Trucks and Buses Rule and the Clean Nonroad Diesel Rule, respectively, which set more stringent standards for new diesel engines and fuels.
The rules require the use of lower sulfur fuels beginning in 2006 for highway diesel fuel, and 2007 for nonroad diesel fuel.
Day said only some of the Princess ships use low-sulfur fuel.
"We want to make sure low-sulfur fuel will be efficient to be used in the engines of our ships," Day said.
Getting a steady supply of low-sulfur fuel can be a problem. Johnson said he is not sure when low-sulfur fuel will be readily available throughout the country.
After his two-hour tour of Sun Princess, Johnson made himself available to the press for seven minutes.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.