JUNEAU, Alaska -- With cruise ships plying the Inland Passage in unprecedented numbers, the state of Alaska is leading a movement to clean up what has become a global concern: the discharge of millions of gallons of highly contaminated waste water from luxury vessels.
Calling the cruise ship discharges "a disgrace," Gov. Tony Knowles on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature to adopt what would become the world's first comprehensive monitoring, testing and control measures on the $11 billion-a-year industry.
The proposed regulations, which the industry has pledged to comply with even before they become law, could set a model for California, Washington, Florida and the Caribbean in their increasing attempts to monitor the environmental effects of the hundreds of thousands of floating tourists who sail along their coasts each year.
"They come to Alaska to see incredible vistas, clean water, unparalleled marine habitat. To promote that and at the same time be guilty of polluting, that is something I think their own customers will not accept," Knowles said.
Alaska's proposed regulations -- overwhelmingly adopted by the state House but stalled by a committee chairman in the Senate -- are being studied by California, which convened its own cruise ship environmental task force in January to monitor waste discharges and analyze their potential impacts on the marine environment and public health. The task force will report to the Legislature in 2003 on proposed changes to California law.
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