Towns Take On New Federal Maritime Emission Limits

Some Alaska communities are pushing back against a new requirement that ships sailing within 200 miles of the coast burn cleaner fuel. They say the rule, which goes into effect Wednesday, August 1, will hurt cruise traffic and increase shipping costs.

One community is Skagway, where tourism dominates the summer economy.

“It takes years to get a cruise line. And it takes a second to drive one away,” says Steve Hites, owner of the Skagway Streetcar Company and a member of the town’s Port Commission.

He’s telling Skagway’s assembly about new air-emission limits set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They cover ships in coastal Emission Control Areas, also called ECAs.

Hites says cleaner fuel is more expensive, and cruise lines will pass that on to customers.

“The cost of the ECA on a cruise ticket could be $150, or three times the cost of the Alaska head tax. We lost five big ships because of the head tax. By extrapolation, will we lose 15 ships?” he asks.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.