Blog author: jcouretas
by on Monday, August 28, 2006

Here’s a supply-side economics lesson that’s going to be learned the hard way by some folks up in Alaska. Away the "Ocean Rangers!”

Alaska voters Aug. 22 were poised to approve an initiative that imposes a series of new taxes and environmental regulations on the cruise ships that bring about 1 million passengers a year to the state. With 87 percent of Alaska precincts reporting, the initiative was passing by a margin of 52.4 percent to 47.6 percent, according to results released by the Alaska Division of Elections Aug. 23.

The citizen initiative, which was placed on the state’s primary election ballot, requires cruise ships to obtain wastewater discharge permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, to abide by state water quality regulations, and to post trained, state-employed “ocean rangers” on ships to observe wastewater practices.

The initiative also raises fines for wastewater violations to a minimum of $5,000 a day from the current minimum of $500 a day. It would require daily recordkeeping for discharges and satellite tracking information giving the ship’s exact location. The initiative also imposes a $50-per-passenger head tax, a corporate income tax, and taxes on ships’ gambling revenues reaped when the vessels are in Alaskan waters.

Revenues raised from the taxes will go to local communities affected by tourism and into public services and facilities used by the cruise ships, said Gershon Cohen, an environmental activist from Haines who was one of the initiative’s sponsors.

“This wasn’t an effort to chase the industry away. This is actually, in the long run, going to be good for the industry,” said Cohen, who is part of a group called Responsible Cruising in Alaska. [via BNA]

Raising taxes “good for the industry?” Uh, not historically. And without spending too much time on it, others know that lowering taxes is a better environmental incentive. 

California (of all places!) is going in the opposite direction:

It wasn’t so much the environment that led Tuan Phan to a recent Port of Oakland-sponsored picnic, advertising a new truck replacement program. It was the $1,000 citations from the California Highway Patrol and countless repair jobs that had Phan filling out a novel-sized application for a $31,000 grant to buy a new rig.

But it was the environment that benefited when Phan qualified as the first trucker to get a new rig under the port’s truck replacement program. “My truck was too old, and they wanted to take it away and give me a new one?” Phan said Thursday. “Yes, I would try that.”

If on the other hand the goal of Cohen’s group up there in Alaska is to get rid of all those nasty, polluting cruise ships altogether, this ought’a make everybody pretty happy.

Well, the green folks, anyway.

[Don’s other habitat is The Evangelical Ecologist Blog]