The Alaska Senate has passed a bill relaxing state standards for cruise ship wastewater discharge.
The largely party line vote was 14 to 6, with every Democrat except Bethel’s Lyman Hoffman voting against the measure and all Republicans voting for it.
Golovin Democrat Donny Olson is a member of the Republican-led Senate Majority, but voted against the bill. Olson says many people think cruise ships are only an issue in Southeast Alaska. But he says his constituents are concerned the vessels are coming to rural Alaska as well.
“Their concern has been that we’re seeing more and more ships coming down the Northwest Passage, and coming on down through Bering Straits,” Olson said. “And the people from Savoonga, the people from St. Lawrence Island are very concerned about what’s going on and they’re watching this bill very closely.”
House Bill 80 was proposed by the Parnell Administration and had already passed the House. It strips a requirement approved by voters in a 2006 citizen’s initiative that would make cruise ship wastewater meet state water quality standards at the point of discharge. It also allows mixing zones, where multiple ships can dump treated waste in the same area.
Anchorage Republican Cathy Giessel said municipalities and fish processors are allowed to have mixing zones. She argued the state would still hold the cruise industry to high standards.
“The intent of HB80 is to apply a consistent environmental approach to all wastewater discharges in Alaska, cruise ships, municipalities, fish processors and others,” said Giessel.
The bill also passed on a reconsideration vote today. Juneau Senator Dennis Egan – another Democrat who caucuses with the Majority – switched his vote in favor of the bill on reconsideration.
It now goes to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature.