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Public Hearing on Cruise Ship Discharges: Juneau

An afternoon open house and evening public hearing were held by the EPA, along with several partners, in Centennial Hall in downtown Juneau, AK. The open house had a steady stream of visitors, and opportunity for testimony directly to the record was available to the public if they were unavailable for the evening public hearing; no testimony was taken.

Approximately 120 people attended the hearing. The EPA made a brief presentation on the EPA's regulations and programs that involve cruise ships, the reasons for the EPA's cruise ship assessment and what the EPA hoped to achieve during the hearings. Thirty-three people spoke, including two elected officials (and two candidates), eight people who identified themselves as representatives of environmental organizations, four people from the cruise ship or tourism industry, and 11 representatives of community organizations or long-time residents of the community. Many of the others who testified also appeared to be long-term residents from the context of their remarks.

The level of interest in this issue was high, demonstrated by the length of the meeting (which extended until after midnight) and that many people stayed to listen until the end. Public testimony included arguments for stricter regulatory limitations and controls on cruise ship discharges. Some suggested that sewage discharges from cruise ships be regulated similarly to land-based sewage treatment plants, which need National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Other suggestions included zero discharge from ships and closure of "donut holes." Speakers described signs of impacts from cruise ship discharges on Alaskan wildlife and waters as evidence that more stringent regulation is needed to adequately protect the environment.

Alternatively, other speakers expressed the belief that there are currently appropriate regulations on discharges, but the U.S. Coast Guard needs to ensure compliance through enforcement. Other opinions included that the cruise industry should not be singled out, and that the cruise industry is dependent on the quality of the environment and therefore has a vested interest in protecting it.

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