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Senator McGuire Releases Documents on House Bill 80

Documents show voters were misled on cruise ship citizens’ initiative in 2006

JUNEAU-Tonight, Senator McGuire, R-Anchorage, is providing documents to support statements she made on the Senate Floor on Tuesday regarding the passage of House Bill 80.  House Bill 80 amends the 2006 citizen’s initiative which made standards for cruise ship wastewater discharge more stringent than Alaskan municipal sewage treatment plants and other industrial dischargers such as fish processors.  

"Some people have misconstrued my statements as saying I believe voters may have been confused when they voted on the Cruise Ship initiative in 2006," said Senator McGuire.  "I think quite the opposite.  In fact, Alaska has some of the most educated and engaged voters in the United States.  These documents prove the citizen’s initiative was misrepresented on the ballot and that may have caused voters to make a decision they otherwise would not have made."

During Senator McGuire's floor speech, she requested permission from the Senate President to enter both documents into public record and then she read from them.  The documents Senator McGuire referred to are an editorial written by Gershon Cohen, one of the main sponsors of the original 2006 initiative and the 2012 November report from the Cruise Ship Wastewater Advisory Panel.

Mr. Cohen's editorial was published just days before Alaskans voted on the Cruise Ship Initiative.  In it, Mr. Cohen wrote: “Alaska has the best seafood in the world and Ballot Measure 2 will help keep it that way by requiring cruise ships to meet and verify compliance with all Alaska pollution rules like every other industrial and municipal discharger.”

“Unfortunately, what voters weren’t told is municipal and other industrial dischargers are allowed a mixing zone. Under the citizen’s initiative, cruise ships were not,” said Senator McGuire.  “A scientific panel has now shown meeting those standards at the point of discharge is impossible with current technology.  That same panel also found that the data provided on the ballot measure was misleading and inaccurate.”

The Cruise Ship Wastewater Advisory Panel was established by the Legislature in 2009.  In its November 2012 report, the panel wrote “Statements that the requirement imposed by the citizen’s initiative was an application of the state’s standards in a manner comparable to other Alaskan facilities are not accurate.  Alaskan municipal and other dischargers to marine waters, as well as Alaskan first processors, are all allowed mixing zones and then, after consideration of this dilution, must meet Alaska’s Water Quality Standards at the mixing zone boundaries.”

“I think one of the most important things that came out of this debate is the need to make even greater improvements to the systems used by Municipalities to treat and release their sewage,” said Senator McGuire.  “One way to do that would be to use money collected from Cruise Ship head tax established by the citizen’s initiative and I intend to pursue that this session.”

House Bill 80 is now headed to Governor Parnell for his signature.

For more information, please contact Brett Huber in Senator McGuire’s office at 907-465-2995.

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