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Alaska Beat

State sues EPA over costly low-sulfur fuel regulation

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published July 20, 2012

On June 13, the Department of Law filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency asking for an exemption from regulations to reduce air pollution from ships traveling within 200 miles of Alaska shorelines.

The state says that the low-sulfur fuel required by the impending regulations, which are set to begin Aug. 1, is costly and difficult to obtain. The state maintains that the fuel will increase shipping costs and the costs of cruise ships that bring tourists to the state. The suit claims that the EPA has no scientific basis for instituting the regulation as it failed to perform air quality monitoring in Alaska that it had done in other states; it also claims that the EPA has no legal authority to enforce the regulations.

The Juneau Empire reports that the cruise industry in Alaska has come out in support of the suit. John Binkley, president of the Alaska Cruise Association, said that the cost to Alaska would be "tremendous." He told the Juneau Empire that the industry estimates that the fuel would cost an extra $3.5 million to $5.5 million per ship. He says that the impact of fuels with higher sulfur content can be curbed in other ways. He points out that cruise ships coming to Alaska are using fuel with lower sulfur content than regulations require, and remove some sulfur from their tailpipes by using sulfur scrubbers. In some ports, cruise ships plug in to shore power, and are able to shut down their engines.

Regardless, if the request by the state is rejected "we'll burn more expensive fuel," Binkley told the Juneau Empire. "But…less people will come and less ships will come."

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