Celebrity settles over air violations

Cruise line to pay state $55K for alleged smoke violations

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

Celebrity Cruise Lines has agreed to pay $55,000 to the state to settle claims it violated air opacity standards twice last year while its ships were docked in Juneau.

The agreement marks the first settlement between the state and a cruise line over alleged smoke stack violations during the 2000 cruise season. State lawyers are negotiating with six other cruise companies facing similar charges, said Chris Kennedy, an attorney with the state Department of Law.

"We don't have any indication either way as to whether we'll be able to settle with them," Kennedy said.

The allegations stem from a monitoring program launched last year with money from a civil settlement between Royal Caribbean Cruises and the state for past water pollution by the company.

The state initially accused seven cruise lines of violating air emission standards a total of 32 times in 2000, but state attorneys dropped seven of the claims because they were borderline violations, Kennedy said.

The state pressed two of four charges against Celebrity Cruises, said Kennedy, noting two of its ships clearly violated air opacity laws while docked in Juneau last year: The Mercury on July 31 and the Galaxy on Sept. 10.

Under terms of the settlement, Celebrity agreed to pay $27,500 for each alleged offense, but did not admit or deny it violated air opacity standards, which require that a ship's plume obstruct no more than 20 percent of the visible background.

The state might have collected a maximum of $100,000 for each claim if it prevailed in court against the cruise line, but Kennedy said it made more sense to settle out of court.

"Celebrity had quite a good record for the year 2000," Kennedy said. "It had many visits to Juneau in which our observations reported no problems at all."

The head of the state Department of Environmental Conservation also preferred to settle the case.

"We're pleased we're not going to be in protracted litigation and that we're moving ahead with correcting the environmental problem," said Michele Brown, commissioner of the agency.

The cruise line didn't want a big legal battle either, said Celebrity spokeswoman Lynn Martenstein.

"It's important to put these things behind us as soon as possible and move on," she said.

The state still has two charges pending against Carnival Cruises, four against Crystal Cruises, eight against Holland America Cruises, five against Norwegian Cruises, one against World Explorer and three against Princess Cruises for air opacity violations last year.

Princess ships this season plugged in to Juneau's hydroelectric power to reduce smoke stack emissions at dock. And Brown, the DEC commissioner, said the state has found fewer violations in 2001. Out of 238 readings this summer, the state is reviewing 19 potential violations by seven cruise lines, she said, noting the number is down from 32 last year.

"The numbers this summer so far have been better," Brown said.

The state settlement with Celebrity does not affect separate charges by federal regulators. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has claims pending against Holland America and Celebrity Cruises for air opacity violations in 1999 and 2000, said Don Dossett of the EPA. Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruises paid $77,000 and $42,000, respectively, to settle EPA's claims from 1999 and 2000, he said.


Kathy Dye can be reached at kdye@juneauempire.com.

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