Federal judge fines Carnival $20M for continued environmental violations
Carnival Corp., whose cruise ships bring thousands of passengers to Alaska each summer, agreed to pay a $20 million fine after admitting to environmental violations while on probation from a previous conviction, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz had previously threatened to keep Carnival’s ships from U.S. docks after learning of more violations, such dumping “gray water” in Alaska’s Glacier National Park, but she approved a settlement with prosecutors, the AP reported.
Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson wrote separate letters to Seitz, asking her to be mindful of the economic impacts by barring the cruise ships from U.S. ports.
On Friday, Clarkson wrote in his three-page offering:
“Alaska wholly understands the seriousness of the allegations—some stem from significant discharges of pollution into Alaska waters—and Alaska feels strongly that cruise ship operators must comply with state and federal environmental laws. However, Alaska asks that the Court consider the collateral impacts that a temporary ban would have on Alaska communities that are blameless in this matter.
“The cruise ship industry plays a vital role in the economy of Alaska and its coastal communities, and even a temporary ban on Carnival vessels would have deleterious impacts. Alaska respectfully requests that the Court forgo implementing any ban on Carnival when assessing penalties.”
Dunleavy also stressed economic impacts while trying to assure Seitz the state takes environmental oversight serious.
“We are aware that environmental compliance is at the core of this matter pending before the court,” he wrote. “Alaska imposes very strict standards on all industries that do business here, including the cruise industry.”
Dunleavy has proposed repealing an environmental oversight program that places on board U.S. Coast Guard certified inspectors known as ocean rangers. It’s a $4 million program funded by cruise passengers, who pay a $4-per-berth fee, and the product of a voter initiative. Its elimination would not reduce Alaska’s general-fund spending.
The Senate Resources Committee gave it a hearing that included public testimony: 12 people testified, none on behalf of the bill.
Even without a repeal, Dunleavy can still defund the program through line item vetoes once the Legislature completes its work on the operating budget.
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