Spill bill signed, but new cruise pollution measure stalled

Posted: Sunday, April 08, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles signed a bill Friday that will require cruise ships, other large vessels and rail cars to be prepared to clean up fuel spills. But another measure that would regulate air and water pollution from cruise ships has stalled in the Legislature, and Knowles hinted he might call a special session on it.

Knowles has proposed requiring cruise ships to meet Alaska's air, water quality and solid waste standards, get permits and submit to monitoring. The industry would pay for the program through fees amounting to about a $1 per passenger.

Knowles called Senate Bill 134 ''must-have'' legislation and insisted that it move through the Legislature this year.

''I think the people of Alaska deserve to see how their representatives and senators vote on it,'' Knowles said. When asked if he would call a special session over the issue, Knowles answered, ''We will have a vote on it.''

Senate Bill 16, which Knowles signed Friday, brings cruise ships, other large non-tanker vessels and the Alaska Railroad under the state's oil-spill response laws. It requires them to maintain contingency plans to clean up 15 percent of their oil-carrying capacity within 48 hours of a spill.

That bill, which had the power of Senate Rules Committee Chairman Drue Pearce behind it as a sponsor, was the result of negotiations during the interim by a task force created after a similar measure was drastically weakened last year in the House.

Pearce, R-Anchorage, appeared with Knowles at the news conference.

When asked whether she'd help push Knowles' cruise ship bill through the Legislature, Pearce said she and her colleagues haven't had much discussion of it, but added, ''I support where the governor's trying to go.''

Knowles' bill would regulate wastewater discharges, solid waste handling and air emissions from cruise ships. He has said the ships carry as many passengers as a small Alaska city, yet escape the regulations municipalities and industries must follow.

Federal cruise ship legislation passed in December isn't enough, Knowles said, because it doesn't address air emissions or solid waste and only applies to vessels carrying more than 500 passengers.

The bill has had no hearings in either the House or the Senate since it was introduced early in March.

Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, has agreed to hear the House version of Senate Bill 134 on April 24 in the Transportation Committee -- two weeks before the session ends -- but he said he has no intention of actually moving it from the committee.

''I have a very conservative ideology, and I just feel this bill is an effort on the part of government to overregulate an industry, and perhaps we're acting too soon,'' Kohring said.

When Pearce's bill on spill preparedness appeared to be stalled last year, she blamed it on cruise industry lobbying and voted with a majority of other senators for a proposed $50 head tax on cruise ship passengers. That tax didn't get a hearing in the House.

She said she has no plans to introduce head tax legislation this year, but wouldn't rule out adding that to another bill.

''Clearly if an opportunity passes by me, I would work with other senators to see that happens,'' Pearce said.

The cruise ship industry has not taken a position on the Knowles' bill. Princess Cruises spokesman Tom Dow told the Juneau Empire the industry is not explicitly urging defeat of it.

''We are explaining to the legislators as we go around the Capitol what the industry has been doing and is doing,'' Dow said.

That includes support for federal legislation, passed in December, and participation in the Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative, he said.

Dow also noted that the cruise ship association just signed a contract to pay up to $196,000 this year to monitor air quality in Juneau and that Princess is spending $3 million to plug into shoreside power at the downtown dock.

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