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The state of Alaska has filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeking an injunction against the implementation of the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA) to the state.
On Aug. 1, the ECA will require a reduction of 1 percent in sulfur for fuel used by ships within 200 miles of the North American coastline (including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). By 2015, the reduction from the current 1.5-2.5 percent of sulfur goes down to 0.1 percent. The EPA, U. S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security will jointly enforce the measure.
The state contends that the decision to include Alaska in the enforcement zone was based on flawed or incomplete data and that there are alternative solutions to the sulfur issue.
“When there are alternatives that accomplish the same goal and don’t have a serious negative economic impact, why not use them?” said John Binkley, president of the Alaska Cruise Association.
Alaska also contends the application of the ECA was unconstitutional because two-thirds of the Senate did not vote on the ECA, which is an amendment to the MARPOL Convention, a treaty to which the U.S. is a party.
The cruise lines have said that the technology is not yet available for some elements of compliance and that dropping the sulfur content will result in burning more fuel. The industry has been talking with the EPA about alternatives, including scrubbers or the weighted averaging of emissions, with ships sharply reducing emissions close to shore, a measure proponents say outperforms the requirement for distillate throughout the 200-mile area.
Binkley said the cruise lines thought they were working out solutions acceptable to the EPA, “but when we got down to the line they just said ‘No.’”
In March, at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, and Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, warned the industry that implementation of the ECA could have profoundly negative consequences. They said that deployment is already impacted and, as itinerary planning moves to 2015 and beyond when the most stringent of the regulations come into play, there will be further changes. Alaska is the most vulnerable, since 100 percent of its itineraries fall into the affected area, unlike Florida, where ships can cruise out of the ECA.
“Alaska relies heavily on maritime traffic, both for goods shipped to and from the state and for the cruise ship passengers who support thousands of Alaskan jobs,” said Attorney General Michael Geraghty. “There are reasonable and equally effective alternatives for the secretary and the EPA to consider which would still protect the environment but dramatically reduce the severe impact these regulations will have on Alaskan jobs and families."