Alaska sues feds over fuel standards for ships

Casey Grove

The State of Alaska filed a lawsuit late Friday against several federal agencies and Obama administration officials to challenge new federal marine fuel standards for cargo vessels and cruise ships.

Set to go into effect Aug. 1, the low-sulfur diesel standards would require large seagoing vessels off Alaska's southeast and southern coasts to fire their engines with new fuel. In its effort to cut sulfur content in all fuel, not just in ships, the EPA touts immediate health benefits. The state suit aims to block the agency's expansion of an emissions control area into Alaska waters, which the lawsuit says will drive up the cost of goods and cruise ship trips to the state.

The lawsuit names as plaintiffs Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Coast Guard Commandant Robert Papp and their respective agencies.

State Attorney General Michael Geraghty announced the lawsuit in a written statement just before 5 p.m. Friday Alaska time, said the expensive, hard-to-find fuel will hurt the tourism industry and cause shippers to pass the added cost to Alaskan. And the EPA admitted that Alaska's air quality is better than national standards, Geraghty's statement says.

"For that reason and others, the state believes the EPA has neither the scientific basis nor legal authority to extend the (control area) to Alaska," the statement says.

According to the state's lawsuit, costs are expected to rise 8 percent for things shipped to Alaska under the new standards. The state estimates that 90 percent of all goods that enter the state come through the Port of Anchorage, including fuel, food, vehicles and construction material and equipment, and supplies for the military.

The state suit also says that, according estimates from cruise lines, fuel upgrades will drive up the price of a trip on their cruise ships. A resulting loss of tourism revenue from an estimated 15 percent fewer passengers will reduce state workers' income by $150 million, according to the lawsuit.

A spokesman for the EPA, Jeff Philip, declined to comment on the suit Saturday.

"We don't respond to filings of lawsuits. We address that through the process," Philip said. "We wouldn't have a comment at this time even if we'd had time to read the suit."

Anchorage Daily News