| Mar 12 2009 -- Apr 12 2009 Oregon Waters Need Protection from Cruise Ship Pollution|
|— Researched and written by Maura Sullivan, Oregon Shores member — |
The cruise industry is economically valuable for many regions of the United States, and normal and safe operation of cruise vessels necessarily involve discharge of sewage, bilge water, graywater, ballast water, and solid waste. However, cruise ships dispose enormous amounts of pollution into waters of the United States and are subject to less stringent regulation under the Clean Water Act (CWA) than land-based dischargers.
For example, discharge of sewage from cruise ships is expressly exempted from the CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements. [33 USC 1362 (6)] Prior to the recent 9th Circuit decision in Northwest Environmental Advocates v. U.S. E.P.A, 537 F.3d 1006 (July 2008), "marine engine discharges," "graywater discharges," and "discharge incidental to the normal operation of vessel," were exempt from CWA NPDES permitting obligations.
Furthermore, cruise ships have been involved in numerous U. S. criminal discharge cases within the past decade for being in violation of both national and international law. See Andrew W. Horner, Red Sky at Morning: The Horizon for Corporations, Crew Members, and Corporate Officers as the United States Continues Aggressive Criminal Prosecution of Intentional Pollution from Ships, 32 Tul. Mar. L.J. 149, 156 (Winter 2007). Understandably, public concern has increased in recent years regarding the impact cruise ships have on state waters.
The lack of regulatory oversight of cruise industry and the impact cruise ships have on marine ecosystems and public health and safety has prompted several states to tighten restrictions on these vessels. For example, Alaska successfully lobbied Congress to enact federal legislation prohibiting sewage or graywater discharge absent vessel compliance with stricter effluent criteria and vessel speed/location restrictions. 33 USCA 1901. California enacted statutes prohibiting sewage and graywater discharge and the incineration of specified materials within three miles from shore. [Calif. AB 2093, Calif. AB 2672, Calif. AB 471]
California and Alaska passed additional legislation implementing "Ocean Ranger" programs that require direct oversight by coast guard certified marine engineers to ensure cruise ships comply with pollution laws, health and safety laws, and required maintenance. [AS 46.03.476; Calif. S. B. 1582] Other states, such as Hawaii, Washington, and Florida have entered into Memoranda of Agreement/Memoranda of Understanding with the cruise industry specifying agreed waste disposal practices. See Claudia Copeland, CRS Report for Congress: Cruise Ship Pollution: Background, Laws and Regulations, and Key Issues (February 18, 2005). While states have taken different approaches toward addressing cruise ship pollution, they uniformly recognize that cruise ship threats to aquatic ecosystems and human health and safety warrant added regulation.
Oregon Shores has been working with Gershon Cohen of the Conservation Science Institute to consider actions to address cruise ship pollution within Oregon waters. Further, Oregon may soon join the ranks of states that require stricter regulation and oversight of cruise ships. State Rep. Jules Bailey, D-Portland, is currently having Oregon legislation drafted on cruise ship issues, and he looks forward to reviewing the draft legislation once returned from the Legislative Counsel.
Given the ecological, economic, and recreational importance of Oregon's fresh and marine water environment, Oregon Shores would support legislation to improve regulation and oversight of cruise ships traveling within Oregon state waters. Oregon Shores thanks Rep. Jules Bailey for his efforts on behalf of Oregon's precious water resources.
Contact: Robin Hartmann, Ocean Program Director, (541) 672-3694, or EMAIL