Thursday, 27 Jul 2000

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.

Yesterday’s meeting in Sacramento was excruciating and exhausting, but relatively productive in the end. It lasted a record four and a half hours, consisting mostly of heated argument and posturing, with a smaller amount of negotiation and compromise on amendments to our cruise ship pollution monitoring bill.

It was a learning experience for both sides. The people who were on the other side of the table represent an industry with a despicable environmental record, yet they claim to be exceedingly environmentally conscious and they are recalcitrant and uncooperative about simply sharing information and being more accountable for what they do with their waste. They clearly do not have much practice at being open to discussion with and scrutiny from regulators, legislators, and environmental groups — a reflection, no doubt, of the inadequate amount of regulation and oversight of their activities to date. I was consistently forced to defend the bill and my work against an onslaught of accusations that we were unfairly singling out the cruise industry. I had to keep reminding them that they had in fact singled themselves out with their pattern of repeatedly getting caught in the act of illegally dumping their wastes into the seas.

We managed to emerge from the lengthy meeting with amendments to the bill that will hopefully get the cruise industry to remove their official opposition. The result was more watered down than what I had hoped for, but both sides compromised, and at least we’ve got a bill that will enable significant scrutiny of the waste management practices of cruise ships in California over the next several years.

With the state agencies and legislative aides present and participating in the meeting, I also got a lesson in political and financial constraints. Environmental bills that cost a lot to implement in terms of human resources and dollars are faced with an uphill battle when headed for the desk of California’s governor. That is a problem I will have to address a few weeks from now, by launching a massive citizen letter-writing campaign, among other strategies.

But first I have to worry about getting the bill through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on August 7. This morning I will put the finishing touches on the amendments as agreed to at yesterday’s meeting and have a conference call with the industry lobbyists and Assembly Member George Nakano’s aide to review the amended bill and make sure it reflects the compromises struck.

Otherwise, today’s agenda includes preparation for our meeting with Royal Caribbean’s lawyers on our civil suit over a cruise ship dumping incident in San Francisco Bay. I will be researching past marine pollution incidents by Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean ships to use as evidence that the company has a continuing pattern of violations, and making a wish list of concessions to ask for should they be prepared to settle. That will be fun, and I’ve got plenty of good ideas taking shape.

I will also be doing a radio interview with a reporter from Seattle’s local NPR station on our lawsuit. Seattle is a hotspot for cruise ship activism right now, as the city has just opened its first cruise ship terminal, and there are plenty of environmentally conscious citizens and organizations there who are concerned about the impacts of increased cruise ship traffic in their waters. I’ve been building partnerships with a few groups in Seattle over the past few months, and I’ll be working to expand this network in order to, among other things, get legislation similar to our California monitoring bill introduced into the Washington Legislature next year.

Also today I’ll be updating our website and working on the air pollution addendum to our EPA petition.

In advance of the public hearings that the EPA will be holding on cruise ship pollution in early September in California, Alaska, and Florida, a workshop is being held by the Coast Guard and cohosted by the International Council of Cruise Lines. The goal is to show the EPA and other regulators who are addressing our petition how environmentally conscious the cruise industry is, and how adequately vigilant the Coast Guard is in overseeing their activities. It is disturbing how friendly the Coast Guard and the cruise industry are, given that the former is the primary agency responsible for surveillance and enforcement of marine pollution incidents from ships. It has also been very frustrating that EPA officials working on the petition have been bombarded with requests for meetings by the cruise industry, and I have repeatedly voiced my concerns to the EPA that they maintain a balanced perspective when making their determinations about what steps to take to address the problems with cruise ship pollution that we request in our petition.

I finally got a call from the Coast Guard this morning, informing me that myself and two other environmental groups will be invited to their workshop, along with an overly large number of cruise industry representatives. A series of panels are planned by the Coast Guard and state and federal agencies, and the cruise industry will have its own panel. I emphasized my frustration with this lack of balance, and reminded the Coast Guard official that they would not be holding the meeting in the first place had it not been for our petition. I stressed that a panel consisting of environmental group representatives should also be scheduled, and that there should be more invitations to environmentalists to obtain a balance of viewpoints. He just called me back to inform me that they had decided to schedule an environmental panel and that I would be invited to give a 15-minute presentation. So that is a minor coup for today!

I must admit that yesterday’s meeting exhausted me and has me looking forward to tomorrow, when I get to go sailing on the Bay with some friends after work to watch the sunset, and Saturday, when I get to spend the whole day climbing rocks.