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August 20, 2003

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SACRAMENTO – Assemblymembers Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), George Nakano (D-Torrance), and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) are calling for passage of three bills regulating cruise ship pollution along the California Coast.

Simitian, Nakano, and Laird are joint authors on a package of three bills awaiting approval in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Together, the bills represent a multi-pronged effort to prevent the dumping of waste and burning of dirty fuel and garbage close to shore.

“Right now, it’s entirely legal for cruise ships to dump their waste right along the coast and in marine sanctuaries,” said Simitian, the primary author of Assembly Bills 121 and AB 471. “That compromises public health and sensitive marine life, not to mention the economic vitality of communities along the coast.”

“It’s a growing concern for people in my district,” said Nakano, primary author of AB 906, whose constituents live in coastal communities from Venice to Torrance. “They suffer the direct effects of air and water pollution from cruise ships.”

Environmental toxins and bacteria coming from sewage, oily bilge water, photo processing chemicals and dry cleaning chemicals—all are routinely dumped along California’s coast. A typical seven-day cruise can generate 50 tons of garbage and more than 200,000 gallons of sewage, according to Bluewater Network, sponsor of the three-bill package. Cruise ships can produce the equivalent emissions of 12,240 vehicles during a single port visit. The emissions result from the burning of garbage, and the use of dirty diesel fuels.

The trio of bills reflect a joint effort by legislators to prevent and mitigate these environmental hazards, which will only worsen as the industry expands. AB 121 and AB 906 limit the area in which cruise ships can discharge wastewater (three miles from shore), and seek to prohibit discharge within marine sanctuaries entirely. AB 471 prohibits the burning of garbage 20 miles from shore, and requires the use of cleaner burning diesel fuel within 25 miles of shore.

“I am pleased to join with so many other individuals and organizations in supporting legislation to curb the potentially significant negative impacts of large passenger vessels on coastal water quality,” explained Laird.  “The release of waste, treated or not, can have considerable environmental impacts on California’s sensitive coastal ecosystem.”