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North American Emission Control Area

By | November 25, 2012

If you have not heard much about the Environmental Protection Agency?s latest one-size-fits-all monstrosity, you will in the coming months and years.

The agency on Aug. 1 began phasing in the North American Emission Control Area, a 200 nautical-mile buffer off the East and West coasts of the mainland United States, Alaska and Hawaii. Within that buffer zone, ships are required to use more-expensive, low-sulfur fuel

Instead of burning heavy fuel oil with more than 25,000 parts-per-million of sulfur, or about 1.8 percent, ships? fuel now must contain no more than 10,000 ppm, or 1 percent. Beginning in 2015, sulfur again will be reduced, capped at 1,000 ppm, or .1 percent.

All of that greenie goodness comes with a real price tag, especially for Alaska. Because shipping in Alaska is mostly by water, transportation costs for just about everything will be going up. Oil. Tissue paper. Food. All of it.

The tourism industry, for example, hauls about 60 percent of the tourists who come to Alaska. It puts about $100 million a year into the General Fund. Even that will be affected by the increasing fuel costs.

The problem in Alaska? Elsewhere in the nation, ships can travel 200 miles and be outside the zone and able to use less expensive fuel. But not in Alaska, where most of the travel is north-south.

Ralph Samuels, vice president for Government and Community Relations for Holland America Line, told the audience at the Alaska Resource Development Council?s 33rd annual conference that the new low-sulfur rules add $80 to each ticket for a seven-day cruise and in 2015 they will add $125. Because Alaska competes with other localities for business, increased costs here could tip the scales for other destinations.

Surprisingly, the EPA did absolutely no modeling in Alaska, Samuels said. Instead, it took a model from Long Beach, Calif., and said it would work for the rest of the U.S.

When questioned about the need for the zone, the EPA said the lichen atop Mount Roberts in Juneau – where a tram goes up and down – had some problems that may, or may not, have had anything to do with cruise ships. And the lichen, the agency said, was going to affect the Alaska Peninsula caribou herd, Samuels told the laughing audience.

“I grew up in Naknek, a thousand miles away and I hunted the Alaska Peninsula caribou herd . . . ,” the former lawmaker said. “For those of you that don?t spend any time in Juneau, there is not a caribou within 500 miles of Juneau, I can guarantee it.”

Caught on that argument, he said, the EPA then said the problem was air quality problems caused by wood-burning stoves in Fairbanks and that why we need the air quality control area.

Samuels said his industry will be talking to the Legislature about several issues early next year, including a marketing funding plan and wastewater disposal, but “all of those are dwarfed in comparison to the excess cost of fuel – with no study, no proven benefits whatsoever . . .”

You may not have heard much about the EPA?s North American Emission Control Area – but we are betting you will.

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