Clean Air Or Jobs? Lawmaker Jumps In To Help Cruise Line

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.

Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

New EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again

They went away and then they came back when Alaska government officials raised then lowered their cost of doing business in Alaskan waters. Looking ahead, upcoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards may send cruise lines running once again.

It all has to do with regulations in the works that enforce “dramatically tougher pollution limits as early as January 2014” the EPA says of Ocean Vessels and Large ships.

“The tougher standards could add $50 million to $150 million in annual costs for Alaska routes by 2015, when the pollution clampdown gets even tougher” Andy Nelson, vice president of tour operations for Royal Celebrity Tours told the Puget Sound Business Journal.

It’s a topic cruise lines would rather avoid but have taken steps to comply and even go beyond existing regulations.After turning a cold shoulder to an Alaska that seemed determined to tax cruise ships out of the market, cruise lines returned this year to the land of the midnight sun with more ships, sailings and capacity.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Bucklew.

Cruise lines often come under heavy criticism for environmental impact but have been making efforts to be good global citizens. “Plugging in” to shoreside power is a growing way ship emissions are being controlled.

Yes, new EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again. But is that what Alaska wants? Cruise lines say no; it’s big business to them and they are trying to comply with regulations. Tourists say no, they want to go there. Alaska residents say no, tourism runs in the hundreds of $ millions.

New York cruise port wants green power… two years ago

It’s been two years since Carnival Corp, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brooklyn cruise terminal port authority agreed to enable cruise ships to plug in to green shore-side power. West coast ports are doing it already with San Diego going online just last month.

All parties agree that it’s a good idea and are ready to move forward. But an agreement on maintenance and operating costs just can’t be reached.

Environmentally angry diesel fuel burned by cruise ships idling while docked can spew a ton of pollutants into the air, about the same amount as 1000 idling cars.

Nearby neighbors of the port are angry, tired of it all and want action.

“The emissions are invisible but get in people’s lungs and cause all sorts of damage,” said activist Anthony Armstrong, who lives with his wife and two children just two blocks from the cruise terminal. “It’s a huge concern around here.” reports the New York Post.

Carnival Cruise Line is ready to go and knows what they need to do. Sister-lines Princess Cruises and Holland America Line already have ships outfitted with the new green power technology and are plugging in on the West coast. They know how to do it.

The EPA and port authority have set aside $15 million to make it happen. All that remains is an agreement on who will pay ongoing costs of maintaining and operating the system.

“We need a comprehensive shore power agreement now,” Councilman Brad Lander told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “We’ve had two years of idling ships and idling negotiations. We have a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference in the health of our communities, and the sustainability of our port.”

Here we have the cruise industry, sometimes criticized for its polluting ways, stepping up to do the right thing. The cruise port wants green power. Neighbors are all over it and no one can figure out how to make that happen.

Wouldn’t it kind of make sense that whoever uses the power from the new system would pay for it?

I’m just sayin’

Flickr photo by postopp1

Feds threaten: cruise line pollution must stop

New emission rules for cruise ships and other large vessels are set to go into effect in late 2013.

A United Nations plan to control emissions from ships sailing within 200 nautical miles of the U.S. and Canadian coasts initially excluded the U.S, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico which pretty much left the Caribbean wide open for uncontrolled cruise line pollution.

Ships often use lower costing fuels with high sulphur levels outside of U.S. government jurisdiction, changing to cleaner fuels as they approach U.S. ports.

Under the plan, which would now include the U.S Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, ships would be required to use cleaner fuel or install special pollution reducing equipment to reduce air pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that asthma and cancer-causing pollutants could be cut by about 90% in a decade.

Under the plan, which needs approval from the United Nations’ London-based International Maritime Organization, EPA officials could randomly show up at ports to inspect ships and enforcement will be tough. The penalties have not yet been established, but impounding ships has been suggested as one option, said Elias Rodriguez, an EPA spokesperson.

Flickr photo by lecates