Parnell Pees in the Pool
The critical vote on a controversial bill involving the dumping of cruise ship waste in Alaska waters has been put off until next week. This is good news. Your outrage, and contacts with your legislators are having an impact.
The cruise ship dumping legislation favored by Governor Sean Parnell would kill key provisions of a 2006 citizen’s initiative, voted in by the people, that required cruise ships to meet clean water standards at the point of discharge by the 2016 cruise season, instead of allowing them to release sewage, heavy metals, and other waste into “mixing zones.” Mixing zones are part of the theory that everything is fine as long as it’s diluted. Mixing zones mean that cruise ships don’t dump all in one place, they dump as they go, covering wide areas with a more dilute concentration of yuck.
I’m guessing that Sean Parnell was probably that kid – the one who thought it was OK to pee in the pool as long as he was moving while he did it. No warm spot = No problem. I’ll pass on the Parnell Pool Party, thanks.
Coincidentally, last night, “Top Chef” aired the second of two episodes that were filmed in Juneau, including a dinner with Governor Sean Parnell and wife Sandy, right there in the governor’s mansion. I wonder if Parnell told them about the lovely copper and urine demi-glace they’re working on for next year’s salmon, halibut and shellfish catch.
Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch), an avid fisherman, (and doubtless a kid who got out of the pool to pee) explains what is happening to the voter initiative that citizens passed in 2006:
Copper, and ammonia from treated human waste, damage fish — and especially King Salmon, which have been dwindling in numbers in Alaska’s most important rivers recently. Your voter initiative limited damaging copper, ammonia and other damaging discharges. It required human waste to be treated to high standards. Half the large cruise ships coming to Alaska meet these clean water standards by discharging at stationary waste plants where dumping doesn’t touch critical fishery habitat, or they dump 3 miles offshore where currents more easily dissipate waste. That won’t be required anymore.
I’m not a big fan of throwing babies out with bathwater. I’d rather keep pressuring companies to develop cleaner discharge technology, as the initiative has been doing.
Your initiative said clean water standards had to be met at the spot where the dumping occurred. Now the Governor lets ships spread their waste over large areas, called “mixing zones” — so the pollution in any one column of water is less, but cumulatively, a school of Kings will swim through that long swath of discharge.
We can do better.
In a senate floor session on HB80, Republican Senators defeated one compromise amendment after another from Democrats which would have:
• granted cruise ships more time to meet standards rather than simply eliminating them
• required that independent water samples would be taken to ensure discharge water quality standards are met
• published locations of discharges so the public could know where the “partially treated” sewage is being dumped
• kept sewage discharges at least 2 miles away from shore
• banned sewage discharges next to game refuges and marine parks
Senator Hollis French noted that United Fishermen of Alaska supports that two mile off shore amendment. But the Senate’s biggest apologist for the governor’s dumping plan, Cathy Giessel said, “the science doesn’t support that amendment.” Apparently, whatever planet she’s getting her science from is populated with salmon that just love them some partially treated sewage and heavy metals. And they especially like it close to shore. Don’t you?
Yeah. Don’t go to a pool party at her house either. Ironically, Giessel’s new district now includes Seward and other coastal fishing communities on the Kenai Peninsula, AND she was inexplicably endorsed by the United Fishermen of Alaska. It didn’t take long for her gushing “appreciation” of fishermen evaporated in favor of whatever the governor tells her to do. Thanks for the endorsement, have fun under the bus.
Also under the bus is Juneau. Their Democratic Senator Dennis Egan voted no on the 2-mile limit dumping.
Giessel also opposed the ban on dumping next to refuges and marine parks, saying that Alaska has a whole department dedicated to protect the environment. She was referring to the DEC, of course, whose studies she chooses to ignore.
Those in the know say that legislators are surprised at the outpouring of public opposition to HB 80. In other words, your voices matter and are having an effect on this, and those surprised legislators have noticed that you care. It’s not really surprising that voters have a problem with their elected leaders voting to overturn an initiative on which Alaskans have already voted to approve.
There have been a few Republicans, notably ones from coastal areas like Bert Stedman of Sitka, and (Giessel’s geographic neighbor) Peter Micciche of Soldotna, who have crossed over and voted for some of the Democratic amendments. And it is possible that with continued public pressure, there could be a 10-10 tie when it goes to a senate vote, but this will depend on YOU.
We cannot expect sensible Alaska-focused votes from all senators, but coastal senators need to hear from you about HB80 before their vote on the 19th. If five vote no, we can stop this. Tell them that our water, our fish, and our way of life is precious and we’re not interested in having our shellfish, and our delicate coastal ecosystems marinated in cruise ship waste just because the governor wishes it so.
So, let ‘em have it, Alaska – particularly these coastal senators:
Juneau – Senator.Dennis.Egan@akleg.gov
Sitka – Senator.Bert.Stedman@akleg.gov
Kodiak – Senator.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov
Bethel – Senator.Lyman.Hoffman@akleg.gov
Nome – Senator.Donald.Olson@akleg.gov
Seward/Nikiski – Senator.Cathy.Giessel@alkeg.gov
Soldotna – Senator.Peter.Micciche@akleg.gov
For further details, check out the story in the Anchorage Daily News.
Here is the Senate floor hearing, which every Alaskan should watch.