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The Price of Pollution

PROBLEMS WITH POLLUTION Carnival Cruise Line has been ordered to pay a fine for polluting the ocean. JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES

A federal court in Miami, Florida, has ordered Carnival Corporation to pay a $20 million penalty. Years ago, the cruise ship company was ordered to stop polluting the ocean. The court says the company has continued to do so.

In 2016, a court found Carnival Corp. guilty of covering up the fact that it was discharging oily waste from its ships. At that time, the penalty was $40 million. On Monday, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald admitted the cruise line had broken the law again. “The company pleads guilty,” he said to a packed courtroom. “We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them.”

“The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” judge Patricia Seitz replied. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

Carnival is the world’s largest cruise line. It owns nine cruise brands and 105 ships worldwide. Its ships carry passengers to some of the most beautiful locations in the world. But in court, the company admitted to several crimes. These include dumping “gray water” in places like Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park. Gray water includes wastewater from sinks and washing machines. The company has also been dumping food waste and plastic in the Bahamas. This poses a threat to marine life.

The court has given Carnival a fall deadline to make changes. The company will have to improve the way it trains employees. It will also have to change how it reports environmental violations. From time to time, officials will check to make sure the company adheres to the court’s ruling. Another proposed change is a reduction in single-use plastic items. These include plastic straws and cups. The company may also work to improve how waste is handled at sea.

At an earlier hearing, Judge Seitz threatened to prohibit Carnival from docking at U.S. ports. She even warned that future violations could lead to prison time for company leaders. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behavior,” Seitz said.