Legislature Takes Dump on Alaska
Despite massive public outcry, and good efforts by Democratic lawmakers, the legislature has voted to pass a bill that will loosen restrictions on the cruise industry, and lower water quality standards for coastal waters. HB80 now heads to the Governor’s desk.
None of the Democratic amendments which would have required dumping at least 3 miles offshore, not next to marine parks or game refuges, public notification of the location of dump sites, and water monitoring passed. The bill was voted through as it was, and zipped through the senate with a vote of 16-4. The yes votes included Democratic Senator Dennis Egan who represents Juneau, where this bill hits closest to home. Egan decided to caucus with Republicans this legislative session. After that and this vote, if he’s not hanging his head in shame, or getting smacked upside of it by constituents, he should be.
But if you look at the list of Republicans who took money from the cruise industry this past election, suddenly it comes into clear focus why representatives on that side of the aisle, who are supposed to have our best interests at heart seem to have a different priority.
This bill actually overturns the will of the people of Alaska, and undermines a citizens’ initiative passed by the voters in 2006.
Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anc) was asked what she thought of that.
“…actually when you sit back and look at voter psychology, when people go into the ballot booths, it’s not clear that voters always understand what they’re voting on, to be honest.”
I’m not quite sure on this… Is that dripping contempt, or just oozing contempt for the voters?
Gee Senator, us dimwitted Alaska folk, why we didn’t even know we was votin’ fer clean water! Do tell? Well, thanks a bunch fer settin’ us straight. Now we don’t have to worry about tryin’ to think no more, or about clean water. Thanky, smart lady!
But Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said there’s strong opposition to the bill. “Mr. President, we’ve heard from shellfish farmers, salmon trollers, Native tribes, fisherman, United Fishermen of Alaska, hundreds of Alaskans. I got emails on this. And I got emails from people who work with the cruise industry who said vote yes on this bill, and overwhelmingly people in my district said vote no on this bill.”
The Legislature originally enacted tougher water-quality standards for cruise ships in 2001, following several criminal convictions of cruise lines for pollution in the 1990s.
A Ketchikan fisherman named Steve Schrum gave testimony to the legislature about stressed salmon, cruise ships dumping waste in the middle of fishing areas, long brown streaks of water with strips of toilet paper in fishing locations, and frothy patches of soap in open water.
The pictures alone are sobering. Above is the water Schrum is fishing in, covered with bits of sewage, toilet paper and other waste. And, of course, the heavy metals which are arguably the most damaging and toxic byproduct from the ships are invisible to the eye. You can see what he sent the legislature HERE.
But hey, he’s only a fisherman. Why heck, he probably didn’t even know what he was saying, right Senator McGuire? You know best. And he probably didn’t stuff the coffers of Republican candidates this past fall. Just a guess.
Please take note of the roll call:
YEAS: 15 NAYS: 5 EXCUSED: 0 ABSENT: 0 Yeas: Bishop (R), Coghill (R), Dunleavy (R), Dyson (R), Egan (D), Fairclough (R), Giessel (R), Hoffman (D), Huggins (R), Kelly (R), McGuire (R), Meyer (R), Micciche (R), Stedman (R), Stevens (R) Nays: Johnny Ellis, Hollis French, Berta Gardner, Donny Olson, Bill Wielechowski (all Democrats)
The bill now heads to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature. I wonder if he’ll sign it? I bet the $60,000 in campaign contributions he got from the cruise industry could buy a really nice fountain pen.