Cruise lines face air pollution fines

Posted: Thursday, August 03, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Two cruise lines face fines for violating Alaska's clean air laws last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.

The EPA recommended $110,000 in civil fines for Princess Cruises and a $55,000 penalty against Norwegian Cruise Line for violating smokestack emissions standards.

''Polluting the very environment from which these companies profit is completely unacceptable to Alaskans,'' said Marcia Combes, director of the EPA's Alaska office.

Similar complaints against Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line-Westours and Celebrity Cruises are in the works, said Steve Torok, the EPA's senior representative in Juneau.

Cruise ships generate their own power while in port, and the smoke from their engines can often be seen building up under the low clouds that often cover Southeast Alaska skies.

The federal agency took over enforcement of the state's marine vessel emission standards last year after budget cuts forced the Department of Environmental Conservation to abandon its own monitoring program.

Trained observers monitor smokestacks to measure opacity, or how difficult it is to see through the smoke. In general, visible emissions from a ship cannot reduce visibility above the stack by more than 20 percent. Ships are allowed to exceed those standards for brief periods while docked and for longer stretches when maneuvering in and out of port.

The Sun Princess violated standards while docked in Seward on Aug. 16, the EPA said. Illegal smoke was spotted over the Dawn Princess in the same port on Sept. 18.

''It's regrettable that we had these instances,'' said Dean Brown, executive vice president of Los Angeles-based Princess Cruises. ''They're both really due to technical and operational issues that we're taking steps to resolve.''

Brown said increases in smoke can be caused by generators and boilers starting up and by testing of equipment during maintenance. Also, like many other cruise ship industry officials, Brown was dubious about the visual monitoring.

''Unfortunately, the method is very technical and has a lot of requirements to it and is not precisely scientific,'' Brown said.

The Norwegian Dynasty was cited for violations in Juneau on Aug. 28.

''Because it's pending litigation, it's our company policy not to comment,'' said Jorge Martinez, a spokesman for the Miami-based company.

Both companies have 30 days to respond to the administrative complaints. They can pay the fines or request a settlement conference. If settlement talks fail, the cases would go to court. Brown said Princess Cruises has not decided how to respond.

The monitoring continues this year, Torok said.

In June, smoke from four ships at the Juneau dock appeared to violate pollution limits, EPA inspector John Pavitt said. Pavitt wouldn't name the ships because the data was still under review.

Also, the state is conducting ambient air quality tests in downtown Juneau this year to measure the ships' impact.



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