New fuel regulations to affect Alaska cruises

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JUNEAU, Alaska — More than 1 million cruise ship passengers are expected to visit Alaska this year, but industry officials fear new fuel standards intended to limit pollution from large ships could drive vessels away and lower that number later.

This will be the first full cruise season in Alaska under rules that require cargo carriers and cruise ships to use a low-sulfur fuel within 200 miles of U.S. and Canadian shores. The U.S. agreed to the standards as part of an international treaty.

While the rules affect much of the North American coast and Hawaii, officials in Alaska argue they will have a disproportionate effect here, and they have sued to prevent the restrictions from being enforced in waters off Alaska’s coast.

A federal judge has yet to weigh in on the lawsuit filed by the state shortly before the new standards took effect Aug. 1. Meanwhile, the first ships of this season have begun arriving in Alaska.

The rules adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “will increase the cost of operating cruise ships, and increased costs translate into fewer cruise ship visitors,” attorneys for the state argued in the lawsuit.

The rules also will increase the cost of shipping cargo to Alaska, the attorneys say. “In all of these ways, EPA’s rules will have a substantial and harmful effect of Alaska’s citizens and economy.”

The EPA estimates the overall cost of implementation to be $3.2 billion in North America, while the estimated dollar value for health benefits associated with the change could be up to $110 billion in the U.S. alone by 2020.

— U-B wire reports

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