Cruise ship bill in rough waters

Posted: Monday, May 07, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee said Sunday a cruise ship pollution bill won't make it out of his committee this session, which is scheduled to end Tuesday.

Gov. Tony Knowles, however, said he's not given up hope to get the measure passed this session, and he's turning up the heat on the issue. He has talked about calling a special session if it doesn't pass, although he would not say that is definitely what he plans to do.

Transportation Chairman John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, said after one hearing on the bill Sunday he had too many questions about it and not enough time to answer them.

''When it leaves my committee, I want to be satisfied with it,'' Cowdery said.

Much of the hearing Sunday focused on whether House Bill 260 would require the cruise industry to meet higher standards than other entities, including municipalities, that discharge into Alaska waters.

''I don't believe in double standards,'' Cowdery said.

Knowles said Sunday evening he had sent Cowdery a letter and had spoken with him about the measure.

''I urged him in the strongest terms to move the bill,'' Knowles said.

Knowles said similar cruise ship legislation has been sitting in the Transportation Committee for months, so Cowdery should have had plenty of time to examine the issues.

''With just two days remaining in the session, HB 260 must move immediately if Alaska's coastal environment is to be protected,'' Knowles wrote in the letter. ''Your committee's failure to act can only be construed as a desire to prevent its passage.''

The House last week passed HB 260, with the support of the cruise industry. It gives the state authority to set and enforce standards for cruise ship discharges and independently monitor them. The measure addresses wastewater, air emissions and solid waste handling. It assesses a fee of about $1 per passenger to pay for the monitoring program.

The North West CruiseShip Association sent out a news release Saturday encouraging the Senate to pass the measure, but pledging to comply with the standards of the bill even if it isn't passed.

Knowles said a pledge to comply with the standards will not satisfy his insistence that a cruise ship pollution bill pass this year.

''To me it's not a substitute for a statute,'' Knowles said.

Some senators have expressed support for adding a larger head tax to the bill if it moves, and the industry news release urged the Senate to pass the bill without a tax.

Knowles said he doesn't have a position on a head tax and doesn't want issue to prevent the measure from passing. He has not ruled out calling a special session if the bill fails to pass, and said he might do so on the Fourth of July.

''I haven't figured out which would be the most inconvenient date for everybody, but that has come up,'' Knowles said.

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