Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/17/2004 01:07 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 522-SMALL CRUISE SHIP DISCHARGES                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM announced  that the  first order  of business                                                               
would be HOUSE BILL NO. 522,  "An Act relating to discharges from                                                               
small  commercial   passenger  vessels;  and  providing   for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0056                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   BRUCE  WEYHRAUCH,   Alaska  State   Legislature,                                                               
speaking as chair of the  House State Affairs Standing Committee,                                                               
sponsor of  HB 522, directed  attention to a letter  contained in                                                               
the  bill  packet  entitled,   "Limitations  on  Modifying  Small                                                               
Commercial  Passenger  Vessels."     He  noted  that  the  letter                                                               
addressed  concerns  the  committee   had  expressed  during  the                                                               
previous  bill  hearing  with  regard  to  the  stability  issue.                                                               
Representative Weyhrauch  asked Co-Chair  Dahlstrom if  she would                                                               
like him to read the letter to the committee.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM suggested  it  wasn't necessary  to read  the                                                               
letter into the record.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WEYHRAUCH   explained  that  the  bill   was  not                                                               
introduced until  the House State Affairs  Standing Committee had                                                               
something on the record that  indicated some basis for having the                                                               
state  affairs committee  introduce it  in the  first place.   He                                                               
indicated that  the committee was  interested in the  position of                                                               
the state,  the Department  of Environmental  Conservation (DEC),                                                               
the  cruise ship  industry, and  also whether  the it  made sense                                                               
from a public policy view and  if there was some consensus on the                                                               
desirability for this piece of legislation.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   WEYHRAUCH  suggested   the  small   cruise  ship                                                               
compliance program  is misunderstood by  some of the public.   He                                                               
noted that  a poll done  by the  Juneau Empire indicated  that 77                                                             
percent of the people polled were  opposed to this kind of thing.                                                               
Representative Weyhrauch  said based on  the way the  question is                                                               
posed  in  the   poll,  he  wondered  what   people  were  really                                                               
responding  to.   He  said  the  bill  does not  affect  anything                                                               
related to large cruise ships,  exempt them from any [compliance]                                                               
programs, or  affect the taxation  issues.  Furthermore,  he said                                                               
the bill does not allow small  cruise ships to pollute and is not                                                               
being  done  [at  the  industry's  request].   He  said  this  is                                                               
something that has been considered  by state regulators and small                                                               
cruise  ship operators  in order  to provide  a policy  framework                                                               
that  allow [small  cruise ships]  to operate,  and he  suggested                                                               
small   cruise  ship   operators   have  shown   that  they   are                                                               
responsible.   He  said  small cruise  ship  operators have  also                                                               
shown that  they need  some relief from  the standards  that were                                                               
imposed by  earlier legislation in  order to keep operating  in a                                                               
way  that is  still monitored  by DEC  and meets  best management                                                               
practices (BMPs).   Representative  Weyhrauch said those  are the                                                               
reasons the bill was introduced                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WEYHRAUCH noted  there  would continue  to be  an                                                               
education effort.   He said  this legislation was  recommended by                                                               
DEC  and  it   keeps  small  cruise  vessels   in  the  passenger                                                               
compliance program, which is what it's  all about.  He noted that                                                               
the  aforementioned  letter  was   addressed  in  part  to  allay                                                               
Representative Heinze's specific concerns about stability.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0538                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MASEK said  it seems  the issues  brought forward  have                                                               
been  dealt  with,  and  she   suggested  the  legislation  seems                                                               
compatible  with [DEC's  policies].   She  indicated she  thought                                                               
protection is provided  by the BMPs outlined in the  bill and the                                                               
requirement for DEC  to approve the plan for  a three-year period                                                               
in order for small vessels to operate in Alaska's waters.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0623                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MASEK moved  to report  HB  522 out  of committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes,                                                               
and asked for unanimous consent.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0635                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO objected  for  purpose of  discussion.   He                                                               
directed attention to page 3, lines 20-24, which read in part:                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     The department may adopt  regulations to implement this                                                                    
     subsection but may not require  an owner or operator to                                                                    
     retrofit  a  vessel solely  for  the  purpose of  waste                                                                    
     treatment  if  the   retrofitting  requires  additional                                                                    
     stability testing  or relicensing by the  United States                                                                    
     Coast Guard.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO noted  that  this  language was  previously                                                               
referred   to  as   the   "poison  pill"   clause.     He   asked                                                               
Representative Weyhrauch if he had  heard that term used for this                                                               
language.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK turned attention to  a memorandum dated March 5 to                                                               
members   of  the   House  Resources   Standing  Committee   from                                                               
Representative  Weyhrauch.   She said  the memorandum  deals with                                                               
the issue of the poison of the bill.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0773                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA said  the question  from the  public was                                                               
about  this  same  issue  and  the  language  in  question  seems                                                               
somewhat confusing.   Representative Kerttula asked  if stability                                                               
testing  is only  required  when  the weight  of  the vessel  has                                                               
changed.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0909                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JOHN  WATERHOUSE,  P.E.,  President, Elliott  Bay  Design  Group,                                                               
Ltds.,  testified.    Mr.  Waterhouse  explained  that  stability                                                               
testing is not  like water quality testing, it  requires that the                                                               
ship come out  of service for a day and  involves setting up test                                                               
equipment,  moving  weight on  the  ship,  and then  taking  very                                                               
careful measurements  to determine, from those  weight movements,                                                               
what the center  of gravity of the  ship is.  He  said testing is                                                               
not  something that  operators  will  do as  a  matter of  course                                                               
because it is  so disruptive to operations.   Mr. Waterhouse said                                                               
he thought  the concern is that  if a ship is  modified, the U.S.                                                               
Coast Guard  is likely  to ask  for a stability  test to  be done                                                               
because these  are small vessels  which have applied by  name and                                                               
are typically under fairly stringent  stability requirements.  He                                                               
explained  that  there  just  isn't  a lot  of  margin  in  those                                                               
requirements to  accept new equipment  or changes in  the vessel,                                                               
which he believes is the concern of the operators.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  said if something  is changed on  a ship                                                               
that  would require  the  ship to  have  stability testing,  it's                                                               
because something  is being  done that  affects the  stability of                                                               
the ship, which is the reason the  testing is done.  She asked if                                                               
stability  testing   is  done  because  a   problem  has  already                                                               
occurred.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. WATERHOUSE replied correct.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  said that  was the concern  from members                                                               
of the public, and it certainly resolves her issue.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 1091                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH offered his  understanding that the term                                                               
"poison pill"  came up  because a  member of  the public  who was                                                               
testifying used  that phrase.  He  said it was alleged  or stated                                                               
that  [the bill]  would have  "short circuited"  the department's                                                               
ability to require small passenger  vessels to use new wastewater                                                               
treatment technology.  He asked  Mr. Waterhouse if he understands                                                               
the issue  in terms of the  question that one of  the members had                                                               
raised about this section being called a poison pill.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. WATERHOUSE  said he  believes he understands  the issue.   He                                                               
said from his standpoint as  an engineer, his customers are going                                                               
to be  looking at wastewater  treatment because it is  an ongoing                                                               
changing  technology.     Some  of  the   technologies  that  are                                                               
currently  in  the  laboratories  being  developed  may  lead  to                                                               
smaller systems  that can be  retrofitted into a ship  that won't                                                               
impact the stability  of the ship.  He said  knowing his customer                                                               
base,  if  that  technology  is available,  they  would  be  very                                                               
interested  in applying  it their  ships.   Furthermore, he  said                                                               
their concern has  to do with existing technology  that could not                                                               
be used without major modifications.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. WATERHOUSE  remarked, "They're concerned as  operators, but I                                                               
would  see how  people on  the  other side  may say  that it's  a                                                               
poison pill  that they're just  trying to avoid  doing anything."                                                               
He said  he thought  what is  being dealt  with is  technology in                                                               
progress.  Mr. Waterhouse said that  over the past five years the                                                               
cruise industry has put about  $50 million into investigating and                                                               
experimenting with new water treatment  technology, so it is very                                                               
much a work in progress.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said what is being  discussed is wastewater                                                               
treatment.   He said  [the language  in question  specifies] that                                                               
the department  may adopt regulations to  implement this section,                                                               
but it  exempts those that would  be required to do  any testing.                                                               
He said  he thought this  was sort  of contradictory to  what the                                                               
intent of  the bill was  and that  it allowed an  "escape clause"                                                               
that was pretty wide open.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WEYHRAUCH  said he  thought DEC should  comment on                                                               
whether it believes  that it is an escape clause  that's going to                                                               
allow  that to  [happen].   He  said he  is curious  too, and  it                                                               
should be on the record.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1275                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DAN  EASTON,  Director,  Division of  Facility  Construction  and                                                               
Operation,  Department   of  Environmental   Conservation  (DEC),                                                               
testified.    He  said  his understanding  of  the  [language  in                                                               
question]  is that  DEC can't  require  an owner  or operator  to                                                               
retrofit a  vessel solely for  the purpose of waste  treatment if                                                               
it requires  additional stability testing.   Mr. Easton  said the                                                               
types of  things that require additional  stability testing would                                                               
primarily be for adding tankage  or making substantial changes to                                                               
the  vessel.   He said  DEC was  going to  try to  avoid that  in                                                               
working with  the small cruise  ship companies, and  DEC believes                                                               
it can  develop a set  of regulations that protect  water quality                                                               
and  comply with  water quality  standards without  requiring the                                                               
addition of major tankage that  ultimately would require that the                                                               
vessels be stability tested.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  said he thought  it was  good to get  it on                                                               
the  record,  but  it  still  seems contradictory  to  him.    He                                                               
commented  that it  "tickles" some  of  his neurons  and it  says                                                               
there's something  "goofy" here.   He remarked, "In  other words,                                                               
as long as you have an obligation  that says you now have to have                                                               
a test, why you're excused."                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 1432                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WEYHRAUCH  asked Mr.  Waterhouse  if  there is  a                                                               
correlation between testing and  the U.S. Coast Guard certificate                                                               
of inspection licensing process.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. WATERHOUSE  said he thought  this may  partly go back  to the                                                               
misunderstanding of  the testing.   If it can be  demonstrated to                                                               
the U.S.  Coast Guard by  calculations of weights on  and weights                                                               
off of stability then the vessel  does not need to be tested, and                                                               
the U.S. Coast  Guard will accept that.  He  said if a wastewater                                                               
system is  being changed  out by  another wastewater  system that                                                               
weighs  the   same  amount   and  it   can  be   demonstrated  by                                                               
calculations, the U.S.  Coast Guard will not  require a stability                                                               
test.  The concern comes in when  a system is being replaced by a                                                               
system that  will require additional  tankage and cause  the U.S.                                                               
Coast Guard to mandate a stability  test.  Part of the problem is                                                               
that as  a result of  that stability  test, if the  vessel fails,                                                               
the work has already been done to  the vessel.  If it is suddenly                                                               
discovered that  it no longer meets  stability requirements, then                                                               
the situation is that the money  has been spent on equipment, the                                                               
U.S. Coast Guard  is saying the boat cannot be  sailed because of                                                               
the equipment has been installed.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. WATERHOUSE  said it is not  testing for knowledge or  for the                                                               
ability to do  it, it is a  reflection of the fact  that as boats                                                               
grow older  they tend to  gain weight.   He explained  that every                                                               
little bit of weight on these  kinds of vessels has to be watched                                                               
carefully  because  there  are  stringent  safety  and  stability                                                               
requirements, and the  U.S. Coast Guard is  pretty rigorous about                                                               
enforcing those.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  MASEK  said the  bill  specifies  that best  management                                                               
practices will  include such things  as onboard treatment  of all                                                               
wastewater to  U.S. Coast Guard  standards and  whenever possible                                                               
require  that all  vessel discharge  be  made at  least one  mile                                                               
offshore traveling  at six knots.   She  said the bill  also says                                                               
the DEC assessment  report concluded when small  and large vessel                                                               
discharge  underway  they  are  able to  meet  all  Alaska  water                                                               
quality  standards.   She  turned  attention to  page  53 of  the                                                               
report that  DEC came out with  on the assessment of  cruise ship                                                               
and  ferry wastewater  assessment impacts  in Alaska.   She  said                                                               
schedules  are  going  to  be  adjusted  to  minimize  stationary                                                               
discharges; ships will avoid doing  laundry while stationary, and                                                               
will work  with manufacturers to  develop new  technology capable                                                               
of  treating stationary  discharges to  higher levels  on smaller                                                               
vessels.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR MASEK  noted that  ships will  utilize holding  tanks to                                                               
the maximum  extent to avoid  stationary discharges,  continue to                                                               
pay  coastal  protection  fees  to DEC,  and  continue  to  test,                                                               
monitor,  and  report wastewater  discharges  to  DEC.   Co-Chair                                                               
Masek said she thought [DEC] had  come a long way in working with                                                               
this and  is on board  with [the bill].   She remarked,  "I think                                                               
we've done all  we can."  She noted  that Representative Kerttula                                                               
had worked  hard with another issue  that this came out  of.  She                                                               
said she thought it was a  very good compromise and is encouraged                                                               
to see the committee making some headway.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  commented  that if  the  requirements  are                                                               
already satisfied, then  no action is needed.  He  asked if it is                                                               
satisfactory to simply discharge at a  given rate of speed a mile                                                               
offshore, should  the bill  go beyond  that since  that satisfies                                                               
the requirements.  The issue  of removing equipment and replacing                                                               
it  with equipment  of the  same  weight may  satisfy the  weight                                                               
requirement, but  probably not the balance  requirement unless it                                                               
is placed in  the same location, he added.   Representative Gatto                                                               
told the members that  the bill is not as clean  as he would like                                                               
it to be.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO emphasized  that he would like  to see small                                                               
ships  prosper  and is  a  strong  supporter.   When  legislation                                                               
affects the smaller  ships, he said he would like  it to be clear                                                               
that the  bill makes it  easy for  them to adopt  the regulations                                                               
without causing some  objections from the community  and the U.S.                                                               
Coast  Guard at  some later  date.   Representative Gatto  stated                                                               
that he does not believe that  would occur with this bill, but in                                                               
reading the bill he thought it could use more work.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. EASTON  said he can't address  the question about why  a bill                                                               
is needed  if the vessels  are complying  underway.  He  said the                                                               
problem arises when the vessels are not underway.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 1841                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO withdrew his objection.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  DAHLSTROM   asked  if  there  was   further  objection.                                                               
Hearing  none, HB  522 was  reported out  of the  House Resources                                                               
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                

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