Gov. Tony Knowles has resumed his push for passage of cruise ship legislation in the lame duck session of Congress.
Cruise industry executives have reaffirmed their commitment to support the legislation, which would restrict certain wastewater discharges, set up a testing and monitoring program and open the door to new federal standards.
"We share your goal to protect and preserve Alaska's unique and spectacular marine environment," Dean Brown, chairman of the North West CruiseShip Association, wrote to Knowles on Monday. "We accept our responsibilities and pledge to work in partnership with the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard toward achieving that goal."
Knowles wrote to two members of the Alaska congressional delegation urging "priority attention" to the pending legislation, which also has been endorsed by key environmentalists.
"With this broad base of support, I believe that passage of cruise ship legislation during the remainder of the current Congress is both achievable and imperative," the governor said in letters to U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski. "While the cruise ship industry has certainly made progress, recent test results demonstrate the importance of a new regulatory and enforcement regime to control discharges."
Knowles specifically called upon Young to counter opposition from Bud Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Shuster reportedly circulated a letter objecting to the inclusion of cruise ship regulations in an appropriations bill.
"This clearly is an attempt to kill the cruise ship legislation we support and which the industry itself supports," Knowles told Young. "Given your position as the ranking Republican on this committee and its possible next chairman, I believe you are uniquely situated to convince Chairman Shuster of the importance of the pending legislation and to push it into law."
Young did not respond to an Empire request for comment made Monday afternoon.
He initially opposed new cruise ship legislation this summer, saying there was "hysteria" about environmental impacts. Later, participants in negotiations on the bill said Young changed his position, although he has made no public statements about the issue recently.
The legislation, brokered by Murkowski, would prohibit the discharge of untreated sewage anywhere in Alaska waters, and would ban discharge of treated sewage and untreated graywater, or sink and shower water, within a mile of shore or while a ship is at rest. It also would authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a standard for graywater discharges for the first time.
Brown repeated a pledge made by cruise line executives in Juneau on Nov. 13 that the industry will abide by the terms of the legislation, whether it passes or not.