The Alaska House passed a cruise ship waste water bill Wednesday by a 27-9 vote, with only one Republican voting against it.
House Bill 80 relaxes pollution restrictions on cruise ships, by allowing them to release waste water consistent with applicable state and federal law. It was introduced by Governor Sean Parnell last month. Supporters say the bill corrects outdated regulations on cruise ships.
"In the early 2000's, they (cruise industry) made significant investments, hundreds of millions of dollars in Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems," said Rep. Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River).
"There's pollution out there so it's okay to have more?" asked Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage.) "I don't agree with that, not if we're going to maintain the greatest wild fisheries in the world."
Democrats say the bill is entering murky waters by rolling back provisions set in place in 2006 when voters approved a citizens initiative enacting strict guidelines for waste water discharge.
Democrats are also worried that newly created mixing zones for certain ships will lead to more pollution. The zones allow for discharge in areas where wastewater easily dilutes.
"The Tlingit-Haida Central Council, which is the largest tribe in the State of Alaska, have passed resolutions stating concerns with this bill," said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. (D-Sitka)
Republicans say the bill is about enforcing the law consistently.
"If we want to talk about holding government and commercial industries to the same standards, then we should take an internal look at what we're doing on the marine highways," added Rep. Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage).
Chair of the Rules Committee, Rep. Craig Johnson called for a re-vote since four of his colleagues were not present Monday. Johnson says he expects the bill to pass again and move to the Senate.
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