Parnell Dumps Citizens’ Initiative Overboard
This just in from the Alaska Democratic Party. Republicans overthrowing the will of the people to serve their own self-interest and that of their corporate donors? I’m shocked. Shocked, I say.
Today House Republicans passed Gov. Parnell’s bill to allow discharge of sewage and untreated wastewater in Alaska waters, repealing a provision of the 2006 citizen initiative that protected Alaskans’ health and state fisheries. Parnell’s bill would allow the release approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater into Alaska state waters every year.
Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.
“We want Outside tourists’ money, not their sewage. Alaskans voted in 2006 to protect our waters and the salmon fisheries that depend on them. It is outrageous that Republicans would repeal that citizen initiative on behalf of a few Outside interests,” said Mike Wenstrup, Chair of the Democratic Party.
In 2006, Alaskans voted to enact legislation that said cruise ships “may not discharge untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.” On the House floor today, Rep. Les Gara said, “The voters were right in passing a bill which protects the world’s greatest fishery.” Parnell’s bill would repeal the last clause of this law so that dumping of sewage and wastewater in Alaska state waters would be considered adequate “treatment.”
Southeast Alaska fisherman Joseph Sebastian said, “This bill … is a slap in the face to thousands of Alaska’s fishing families.” A single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries, which is why the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes urged the House to reject Parnell’s bill. On the House floor, Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Thompkins noted that the fishing industry’s “concerns are not being heard” as the Republicans fast track this bill.
“The cruise industry was moving toward cleaner operations as a result of the 2006 citizens’ initiative, but this bill would undermine that progress,” said Michelle Ridgeway, a marine ecologist who was on the Governor’s Cruiseship Wastewater Science Advisory Panel. On the House floor, Representative Gara noted that Michelle Ridgeway was the only marine scientist on the panel.
Parnell’s attempted repeal of sewage treatment standards is part of a broader suite of policies which sacrifices the health of Alaska fisheries on behalf Outside interests. Parnell has introduced legislation to expedite wetlands permitting to assist the Pebble Partnership, and Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell has stated that the administration “invited” Pebble and would not deny their permits. Parnell and Treadwell’s support for Pebble contrasts with an initiative that Lake and Peninsula borough residents—who live where the mine would be located—voted to reject the Pebble mine in a citizen initiative.
Welcome to the War on Fish, folks.
Just days ago, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 for dumping wastewater into Alaska’s pristine Glacier Bay in 2011. Back then we cared, I guess.
The Senate version of the bill, SB 29, will likely be heard by the Alaska Senate Finance Committee on Friday, February 8th. It may move to the Senate Floor by next Monday. Senate Finance is hearing SB 29 on Wednesday at 9am and taking testimony on Thursday at 9am. Submit your written testimony to: Sen.Pete.Kelly@akleg.gov, Sen.Kevin.Meyer@akleg.gov,
Contact your Senator, and the governor at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them that you are paying attention, and that you don’t like what you’re seeing.
Do some more reading here:
Tlingit, Haida tribes oppose cruise ship bill. San Francisco Chronicle (2/2/2013)
EPA fines Princess Cruise Lines for 2011 Clean Water Act violation in Glacier Bay KTOO, Juneau (Referenced EPA Report) (1/29/2013)
Public, scientists disagree on cruise ship wastewater KCAW Radio, Stika (1/28/2013)
Cruise ship wastewater standards testimony heard JuneauEmpire.com (1/28/2013)