Wednesday, 26 Jul 2000

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.

I’m up early to get on the road to Sacramento. I spent yesterday getting ready for what is sure to be a difficult meeting, and I feel prepared and confident, although not overly optimistic that any agreement on compromise language for our bill will be reached. I spent much of yesterday on phone conferences with the president of the U.S. Cruise Ship Association, and with the legislative aide to Assembly Member George Nakano (the author of our bill), to anticipate how the opposition is likely to react to our proposed amendments.

In an interesting twist, we have managed to get the U.S. Cruise Ship Association on our side in support of the bill. Despite the fact that their ships are relatively small and are therefore exempt from the reporting requirements mandated under the bill, they concur that cruise ship wastes do need to be better monitored and analyzed to determine their impact on the environment, and have agreed to comply with the monitoring provisions voluntarily. They have been an important ally thus far.

But now it appears that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The large foreign-flagged cruise lines have offered to voluntarily not discharge wastewater into California waters, in exchange for having the additional reporting requirements relaxed. But the U.S.-flagged cruise ships prefer the additional monitoring and oppose the complete abatement of wastewater discharges because many of their smaller ships don’t have the capacity to hold a great deal of wastewater. So we have to think about trade-offs and deals we can strike to get the best of both worlds from both sides. It will be tricky.

Anyway, I am trying to think about what lies ahead rather than dwelling too much on the imminent meeting — otherwise I’ll get anxious. The tensions run so high in these meetings that I’m looking forward to being back in the office on Thursday and returning to some other tasks.

Like my website. The beauty, and the tragedy too, of being a one-woman campaign is that I do everything — in addition to the advocacy, lobbying, research, and writing involved in my campaign work, I also have to do my own press releases and take care of the website. I work hard to maintain my campaign’s section of the site as an updated information clearinghouse on all things cruise ship and environment related. So I spend a fair amount of time writing HTML and posting new information on the site. It’s fun, but always ends up sucking up lots of time.

The thing I am most looking forward to is doing more work on our petition to the EPA. We submitted a petition to the agency in March, with the support and signatures of 58 other environmental organizations, in which we highlighted several loopholes in environmental regulations that should be monitoring and controlling pollution from cruise ships, and laid out several recommendations for how the EPA could redress these problems.

The EPA responded quickly and positively. They have set up an inter-agency task force which has already held several meetings and brainstorming sessions on how to address the concerns outlined in our petition. They are producing a “white paper” that lays out preliminary ideas for how the agency could remedy the regulatory loopholes and continuing problem of cruise ship pollution. They will hold public hearings in September in California, Alaska, and Florida on the issue, and may issue a rulemaking to establish stronger federal regulations governing cruise ship wastes. I’m pleased with the rapidity of their response and their apparen
t dedication to act on the petition, but I need to keep at them. The white paper was due out weeks ago but has been delayed until next week. And the cruise industry has been demanding numerous meetings with the EPA in an effort to convince them that new regulations will not be necessary because cruise companies will volunteer to be good environmental citizens.

But the real work that I need to do on the petition, aside from prodding my EPA colleagues to get the white paper out and announce the hearings so we can begin preparing for them, is to write and submit an addendum that calls on the EPA to address air pollution from cruise ships. Our original petition addressed sewage, gray water (wastewater from showers, sinks, kitchens, laundry, and other drains), solid waste, hazardous waste, and oil, but not air emissions. However, several violations of air emissions standards have occurred and been cited by the EPA in Alaska in the past few months. In fact, I just received a fax from an Alaskan colleague of the front page of the Juneau Empire, showing a cruise ship belching black smoke while in port in Juneau just yesterday. So I am looking forward to doing some research and writing up a new section to add to the petition. It is likely to upset the cruise industry, as they have been adamantly opposed to the air pollution monitoring section of our bill, but I know this is a significant problem and is painfully under-regulated. Not for long, if I have anything to say about it!