Friends of the Earth organized a Congressional Staff Briefing with Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA-17) on ocean pollution issues and legislation that will come before the 111th Congress. Friends of the Earth along with Oceana and Earthjustice addressed shipping industry impacts on climate, cruise ship pollution, and the Clean Water Act as a framework for addressing vessel discharges. Over 50 people attended to learn more about how the ships coming in and out of our waters affect the health of our greatest shared resources: our oceans, our air, and our climate.
Right now, Congress is considering exempting Commercial Vessels from the Clean Water Act, which would set a dangerous precedent. Commercial vessels – ranging from large cruise ships to large boats – discharge a variety of pollutants including toxic chemicals, oily wastes, graywater laden with nutrients, and ballast water contaminated with invasive species. These commercial vessels operate in the ocean as well as the Great Lakes, enclosed bays such as the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound, coastal areas, and the nation’s rivers and lakes. Many of these waterbodies are suffering the ill effects of pollution. The Clean Water Act is the nation’s only comprehensive water quality law and our water can't afford to exempt commercial vessels.
Congressman Sam Farr, D-CA, recently introduced the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2008. The Clean Cruise Ship Act is a substantial but needed change from the currently under-regulated state of the cruise industry. It is also feasible. It seeks to achieve landmark reductions in water-based pollution from the many cruise ships plying our waters. The bill prohibits the discharge of hazardous waste, sewage sludge, and incinerator ash within all U.S. waters. It also prohibits the discharge of raw sewage, graywater, and oily bilge water within 12 miles of shore. Right now, this sewage can be discharged just 3 miles from where we swim and fish.
Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking an immediate response to a seven-year-old cruise ship pollution petition submitted in March of 2000. The petition asked the EPA to assess and regulate pollution from cruise ships.
Update: EPA has requested comments to the Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report they issued as part of the settlement. This has given Friends of the Earth the opportunity to spell out the need for regulation in order to curb pollution from cruise ships. Read our Comments (pdf).
Friends of the Earth supports the Marine Vessel Emissions Reduction Act of 2007 introduced by California Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein (S.1499) that would require all ships calling on U.S. ports to use cleaner marine fuels and engines to cut air pollution that harms public health and the environment. This bill is needed because no action has been taken to revise federal and global standards for large ocean going vessel ship emissions.