Long before recent events had cruise ships grounded, on fire or broken, cruise lines were charged with polluting the environment via their diesel-burning engines. Addressing the concern of environmentalists, many cruise lines chose to plug in those ships when in port, using cleaner shore-side power when possible. Still, looming new environmental standards have cruise lines scrambling to find fuel that will satisfy requirements. Caught in the middle, one lawmaker has chosen to support the cruise line that brings hundreds of jobs and millions in economic impact to his state.
Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is lobbying on behalf of Carnival Cruise Lines with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), looking for a waiver from the new rules to keep the cruise ships coming to the city.
At stake are 220 jobs and $90 million a year spent by cruise passengers and companies that support cruise ships. New rules require cruise ships to use fuel with no more than .10 percent sulfur content starting in 2015, something cruise lines say cannot be done.Unable to find a source for fuel that will produce acceptable results, cruise lines have tried to satisfy the requirement in other ways. Averaging sulfur content across fleets, including those ships with zero output when plugging in is one option being explored. Developing and installing a new type of pollution scrubbers on ships that would meet or exceed air-quality standards is another.
On one side, EPA insists that the requirement could significantly reduce air pollution along the coast and far inland. But the cruise industry warns of potential cutbacks in cruises and job losses because of higher costs associated with EPA standards compliance. In the middle, choosing jobs over the environment, O’Malley’s position is clear.
“If jobs are at stake, the governor is going to go to bat for those jobs,” said O’Malley’s press secretary, Takirra Winfield in a Baltimore Sun report.