Support HB 80 by Tuesday
HB 80, the governor's cruise ship permit legislation, made good progress this week in the Legislature. Below is a brief update. We also ask you to keep up the emails to the Senate as we head into next week for the final vote on the bill.
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the State Senate considered five amendments to the bill – and all were defeated. One would have essentially gutted the bill and required more state studies. Sen. Cathy Giessel, the lead floor sponsor, and Sen. Lesil McGuire both did great jobs pointing out how the amendments were not based upon science and should be rejected. The bill now moves to “third reading.” Although the bill could have been voted on this Friday, it was held for a final vote Tuesday, Feb. 19, due to a number of Senators’ travel schedules and absences.
It is important the Senate continue to hear from supporters so we can keep up the momentum and have a strong vote to pass the bill on Tuesday.
If you have not sent an email to the Senators, you still have time before Tuesday's vote. Below is an article that Ivan Moore drafted to run in the Anchorage Press. Ivan does a great job distilling down the issue in a humorous manner. If you agree with the comments, please paste the article in an email to the Senators listed below with a short personal note encouraging them to vote for HB 80 on Tuesday.
Moore Report: Down the drain
Poop in the water! Poop in the water!
The hand-wringing on the leftover House Bill 80, the “rollback” of the 2006 cruise ship initiative, is tortured, anguished and kicking up all sorts of hyperbole in the fight to oppose it.
Let’s be clear here. Wastewater that is produced by cruise ships is thoroughly treated before being discharged. The treatment is tertiary—that is, divided into three phases: first, the biodegrading of the wastewater; second, the filtration of it; and last, treatment with UV light. What emerges at the end of this process is clear and in all appearances like water, to the point where John Binkley, the head of the Alaska Cruise Association, felt comfortable enough to drink a glass of it. Rather him than me, but he made a powerful point in doing so.
The discharge is not, as Anchorage Daily News fisheries writer Laine Welch calls it, sewage. There are no turds bobbing around in the Inside Passage. So let’s stop trying to cloud the debate with stuff that just isn’t true.
Instead, let’s state what is true. The 2006 voter initiative that created the current law mandated that cruise ships reduce the levels of certain contaminants in their wastewater, notably ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc, down to levels that the cruise industry has since struggled to achieve. It’s clear that the levels mandated are on or close to the cusp that is achievable by today’s “best available technology.”
Some, including me, argue that the mandated levels set an unreasonably high standard. Unreasonably high, not only because they are very hard and costly to attain, but also because they go far beyond what’s necessary to protect Alaska’s environment.
Yes, the government has gone too far. It’s the government’s job to regulate and ensure responsible practice by private industry, but not the government’s job to impose onerous regulations that harm a single industry’s ability to operate, especially when there isn’t a compelling need.
The irony is that the “government” in this particular case was the people. It was a “citizen” initiative, crafted by the environmental lobby and passed into law by the voting public. But only after they’d seen enough 30-second TV ads to convince them that it was a good idea.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s undeniable that the right to petition is a cherished one. Sometimes, however, it is used to circumvent the legislature. Other times it is used to advance special interests. And oftentimes, as in this case, it results in lousy, un-thought-out and unfair laws.
One of the sensible fixes that HB 80 proposes is allowing for a mixing zone after the discharge emerges from the pipe. The 2006 law specified that the contaminant levels be measured “at the point of discharge,” i.e. when the water emerges from the ship. However, the Science Panel studying the issue concluded that even if the discharge doesn’t quite meet standards coming out of the pipe, within seconds in the ocean, it does. Everything disperses and dilutes very quickly.
So no harm, reasonably enough, right?
That’s obvious to just about everyone, it seems, except the Anchorage Daily News. Leading the charge on the enviro-wackjobbery front, they suggest in a recent editorial that “dilution is debatable.” Presumably, the laws of physics are suspended to prevent it from happening.
And compounding the paranoia, our old friend Les Gara, in an editorial in these pages, is all worried about the fish he wants to catch not making it up his favorite stream because of copper levels in the wastewater. They negatively impact a salmon’s ability to navigate, don’t you know. Yet, Dr. Alan Mearns, armed with a Ph.D in Fisheries and a member of Governor Knowles 2001 Science Panel, has testified that even taking into account the cumulative effect of all cruise ship traffic in Alaska, copper levels are not raised above what occurs naturally.
But enough about the required standards. Enough about dilution and mixing zones. Here’s what Gara and the eight other Democrats who voted against HB 80 should really consider. The next time they settle in on the throne for a good Sunday morning constitutional, no doubt reinforcing their righteousness with a good read of the Anchorage Daily News at the same time, they should consider their hypocrisy when they reach to flush. The editors of the Daily News can try this at home too.
Because most municipal wastewater treatment systems aren’t tertiary. The treated wastewater from our Anchorage land-based toilets (250 fully-loaded, permanently-anchored cruise ships worth), piped day and night into Cook Inlet, doesn’t come close to meeting the same kinds of standards that are required of cruise ships. And you guessed it, municipal wastewater gets the benefit of mixing zones in the assessment of those lower standards.
Indeed, if you took some of that municipal discharge and went and lobbed it off the side of a cruise ship, you’d be breaking the law, but our Democrats in the Legislature continue to flush with impunity, at the same time squawking hysterically and hypocritically about evil cruise ships and the harm they pose to the environment.
So enough already, the 2006 law went too far. The voters had good intentions, but were sold a very green bill of goods that places an unreasonable burden on one industry. The legislature is right to amend it, they’re certainly well within their rights to do so six years after it was originally passed. Don’t gut it, don’t repeal it, just ratchet it back to a fairer and more equitable balance between demanding accountability from the industry, yet not restricting their ability to do business.
And leave it to the Legislature to figure out where that balance is. It’s their job.
Ivan Moore is a public opinion pollster who lives in Anchorage and works for a variety of clients—political, corporate, public sector, or just plain curious—around Alaska. His opinions are his own and we give him a long leash. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> .
Source: Alaska Act