EPA Settles Lawsuit Over Cruise Ship Discharges

EPA Settles Lawsuit Over Cruise Ship Discharges

For more information contact:
UW Environmental Law Clinic Director, Professor Michael Robinson-Dorn, 206.616.7729
Corinna McMackin and Julie Schaffer, UW Legal Interns, 206.543.3434
Fred Felleman, Friends of the Earth, NW Consultant, 206.595.3825
Teri Shore, Friends of the Earth, San Francisco, mobile, 707.583.4428

EPA agrees to respond to petition filed by 53 groups and issues draft report assessing discharges from cruise ships—a first step toward regulating such discharges; public comments due Feb. 4

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Friends of the Earth and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have settled a lawsuit that sought to compel the EPA to address cruise ship pollution.

In response to growing concern regarding the environmental impacts and inadequate regulation of cruise ship discharges, Friends of the Earth filed the lawsuit earlier this year against the EPA seeking an immediate response to a petition submitted in March of 2000. The petition, originally circulated by Bluewater Network (now part of Friends of the Earth) on behalf of 53 organizations, asked the EPA to assess and regulate pollution from cruise ships. (The complaint can be found here. The petition can be found here.)

In the settlement, the EPA agreed to release its Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report, and respond to Friends of the Earth’s request for rulemaking. The EPA is accepting public comment about potential regulations through Feb. 4, 2008.

“Now that EPA has finally agreed to release this report, the public must submit comments compelling the EPA to regulate these floating cities and protect the very places people are paying to visit,” said Teri Shore of Friends of the Earth.

The EPA draft report finds that cruise ship discharges contain concentrations of bacteria, chlorine, nutrients, metals and other pollutants that often far exceed federal effluent and water quality standards and are harmful to human health and the marine environment. The report estimates that cruise ships produce an average of 21,000 gallons per day of sewage and 170,000 gallons per day of raw graywater that can contain as much bacteria as sewage. Large volumes of highly concentrated sewage sludge are also routinely dumped overboard. The report finds that even the Advanced Wastewater Treatment systems required in Alaska are far from perfect.

Professor Michael J. Robinson-Dorn of the Kathy and Steve Berman Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Washington, who prepared the case on behalf of Friends of the Earth, said he is pleased with the settlement. “The right of people and organizations to petition is fundamental to open government by and for the people, and Congress has required agencies to respond to such petitions,” Robinson-Dorn said. “EPA’s settlement and issuance of the draft report marks an important first step toward regulating cruise ship discharges.”

The EPA is currently soliciting public comments and recommendations in response to its draft report. The agency is required by law to consider these comments as it decides whether to regulate cruise ship pollution. The public may review the draft report at http://www.epa.gov/owow/oceans/cruise_ships/disch_assess.html, and to file a public comment or recommendation during the 45-day comment period. Comments can be submitted with the EPA’s Office of Water Docket at [email protected] and must be filed on or before February 4.

Additional Links:
National Commission on Ocean Policy, Final Report, An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century, September 2004, See Chapter 16, Recommendations 16-5 and 16-6 http://www.oceancommission.gov/documents/full_color_rpt/16_chapter16.pdf
Pew Oceans Commission Report, America’s Living Oceans, see P. 71 http://www.pewtrusts.org/pdf/env_pew_oceans_final_report.pdf
U. S. Maritime Administration, North American Cruises 4th Quarter 2006 http://www.marad.dot.gov/marad_statistics/2005%20CRUISE%20UPDATE/cruise%20report%200406.pdf