Sierra Club objects
to closed meeting
The environmental group wanted
access to a cruise ship briefing
An environmental group has objected to the public being excluded from a meeting between state agencies and a cruise ship organization about handling environmental waste on ships.
On Thursday the North West Cruiseship Association briefed the state Health and Transportation departments and the U.S. Coast Guard about environmental waste and national and international laws governing disposal.
Deputy Health Director Larry Lau, who is in charge of environmental health regulation for the state, described the meeting as "a workshop and informational briefing."
"This information will help us when we board the cruise ships and check their records, which we intend to do," Lau said. "We want to keep an eye on them and to do it in an efficient manner."
Lau said the meeting also provided background for a Sept. 25 meeting that will review the effectiveness of the state's Memorandum of Understanding with the association, which represents cruise lines doing business in the Hawaiian Islands. The memorandum was signed last October and offers voluntary guidelines for cruise lines while in Hawaiian waters.
But the Sierra Club questioned why Thursday's meeting was closed to the public.
"Why is the administration shielding the industry from public scrutiny? What does the cruise industry have to hide?" Sierra Club Executive Director Jeff Mikulina asked.
Lau said his reading of the memorandum does not require a meeting between state officials and the association to be open to the public.
The Sierra Club objected to the memorandum last year as not being protective enough of Hawaiian waters from an industry that has been fined for illegal waste dumping in other states.
Lau noted that there have been no reports of spills or environmental problems with cruise ships during the past year.