Two environmental groups are taking state regulators to court in a dispute over the technology cruise ships use to treat their wastewater.

Earth Island Institute and Friends of the Earth are contending a ruling by the Department of Environmental Conservation, saying DEC is not requiring cruise ships to use the best-available treatment technology. The DEC says the groups failed to prove the treatment system they prefer is the best choice for all the ships.

The law the Alaska Legislature passed in 2009 was seen as a compromise between cruise industry critics, who wanted tougher discharge standards, and cruise industry supporters, who argued there wasn’t adequate technology to retrofit all the ships.
The law amended a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2006 that created new taxes and stringent environmental rules for the cruise industry.

It gives cruise ship operators until the end of 2015 to comply with the initiative’s environmental rules. But the law does require cruise ships in the interim to use a system that the DEC determines is the most technologically effective in treating its wastewater. It also has to be economically justifiable.

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