D.C. deal reached on cruise ship waste

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A deal has been reached to curb cruise ship dumping of sewage and wastewater in the Alaska's waters.

But for it to pass this year, Sen. Frank Murkowski, who brokered the deal, and state officials must persuade Sen. Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to attach the provision to a must-pass spending bill.

The move is necessary because House and Senate negotiators are stalled over a Coast Guard reauthorization bill to which the cruise ship provision would have been added, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

Whether an appropriations rider is possible may depend on Rep. Don Young, who has expressed strong reservations about any tightening of federal laws regulating cruise ship dumping.

The provision would ensure that cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers do not discharge untreated sewage within the waters of the Alexander Archipelago, federal waters off the Alaska coast or in Kachemak Bay. Cruise lines deny dumping such material anywhere.

It would also prevent the unregulated discharge of treated sewage and wastewater from showers and sinks while in port, generally restricting such dumping to ships traveling at least a mile offshore and at speeds of six knots or faster to facilitate mixing of the wastewater.

It also would ensure that discharges of sewage and wastewater from cruise vessels are subject to monitoring. Criminal penalties could be imposed for not reporting accidental dumping.

''We think this is a package that is workable, fair and protective of the environment,'' said David Garman, Murkowski's chief of staff.

There were conflicting reports Wednesday on whether Young's opposition to the dumping provision was contributing to the demise of the Coast Guard bill.

An aide to Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., chairman of the House Transportation Committee's Coast Guard panel, said the bill was in trouble because of an unrelated issue of cruise ship liability when a death occurs at sea.

But Jim Berard, spokesman for Transportation Committee Democrats, said the dumping issue was also a stumbling block.

Last month, Young said efforts to tighten down on cruise ships were driven by hysteria. He said the cruise industry was working hard to clean up its operations after two lines, Royal Caribbean and Holland America, pleaded guilty to criminal dumping. And he said the House would not consider legislation that Murkowski was working on at the time to stem the dumping.

For several weeks, Murkowski's aides have been working to put together a compromise with the state, the Clinton administration, environmentalists and the cruise industry. The idea was that if a deal were reached, it would be offered to the House to settle the dumping issue on the Coast Guard bill.

But when the deal was offered, the House Republican negotiators ''refused to consider it,'' said Kathie Eastman, an aide to Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democratic negotiator on the bill.

The irony is that the cruise industry, except for the Royal Caribbean line, backed the deal.

''We support the Murkowski bill,'' said Michael Crye, acting president of the International Council of Cruise Lines. ''Sen. Murkowski and his staff have been exceptionally, exceptionally hardworking on this.''

The deal also was also supported by the state and environmentalists, although both said there was room for improvement.

''Improvements could be made, but this is essentially good legislation,'' John Katz, Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles' top aide here.

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