One the nation’s most prominent environmental groups, Friends of the Earth, is leading a nationwide petition in an attempt to halt the proposed expansion of Carnival Cruise Line’s presence in Long Beach.
The Long Beach Cruise Terminal Improvement Project is set to dredge up 33,250 cubic yards of the ocean floor just east of the Spruce Goose Dome, where the previous Long Beach Cruise Terminal Renovation Project permitted Carnival to expand its ticketing and holding area in 2017. The dredging is to accommodate the cruise line’s newest ship, the 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama that’s replacing the current 3,012-passenger Carnival Splendor.
Friends of the Earth—which has garnered 2,460 signatures on the petition so far—is claiming a number of things, including an accusation that the public wasn’t properly notified about the project. A commenting period for the project, formally extended through a Notice of Intent that was posted on the city’s website on June 20, is set to end this coming Monday.
Marcie Keever, a director for the activist group, said the notice was “buried within the city’s website and, even then, difficult to find.
“And then, on top of specifically keeping the public out of involvement, it is astoundingly tone-deaf that the city of Long Beach would give free rein in the port and our waters to a criminal organization.”
Keever uses that description because Carnival Cruise Line’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, has two recent environmental convictions within the past two years, which added to the company’s stained history that reaches as far back as 1993.
In 2016, Carnival Corporation was convicted of dumping oil waste into the ocean from its Princess cruise ships across an eight-year period and falsifying official logs to hide the damage after a whistleblowing engineer approached authorities. The engineer said Carnival required ship engineers to use a device called the “magic pipe” to bypass the ship’s computerized water treatment system and dump oil waste straight into the ocean. The company’s guilty plea resulted in a $40 million payout—the largest ever imposed for crimes involving vessel pollution—and began its five-year probation in April 2017, the same month it announced its new expansion in Long Beach. Additionally, the company pleaded guilty to seven felony charges for violations on five ships starting as early as 2005.
Then, in March of this year, Carnival Corporation was accused by the U.S. Coast Guard of violating said probation, leading to six new charges, including the dumping of plastic mixed with food waste in Bahamian waters, last-ditch attempts to fix environmental compliance violations before inspections, further falsifying records, and unlawfully contacting the U.S. Coast Guard. Carnival pled guilty on June 3 of this year, dolling out another $20 million for their crimes.
The city of Long Beach has denied any violation of properly notifying the public, with Amy Harbin of Development Service’s Planning Bureau stating that “pursuant to the CEQA Guidelines, Section 15073, when an initial study and mitigated negative declaration are submitted to the State Clearinghouse for review the public review period is not less than 30-days, which the City has met.”
However, Andrea Hricko, former professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and longtime air quality advocate—and self-admitted “concerned academic” who has signed onto the petition—claims there are even further issues beyond Carnival’s criminal standing and the public’s lack of accessibility to comment on the project. According to Hricko, Carnival lauded that the renovated terminal area was “plug-in” ready, meaning it would be able to harbor a ship that was less oil dependent and more electric.
“But, instead, they harbored the Carnival Splendor, which doesn’t plug-in,” Hricko said. “For the past two years, they have used a ship which has been more detrimental to the air quality—and will now use that as a base for permitting this much larger ship, the Panorama. The Panorama, by the way, is still under construction. It would behoove the City of Long Beach to first obtain a full report from Carnival on how it has estimated the anticipated operating emissions from the Panorama and that the report be analyzed by Port of Long Beach staff that has such capabilities to do such analysis.”
The documents used to support the Panorama being brought in (and hence the improvement project moving forward) do not include air quality analysis to the years prior to the Splendor, which Hricko says creates a “misleading baseline” to determine the Panorama’s true impact to air quality.
The Long Beach Cruise Terminal Improvement Project is set to face the Planning Commission in the coming months, where it will once again be open to public comments. The public comment period for the current Notice of Intent ends on Monday, July 22.
Carnival Corporation did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
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