Archive for February 2014

City Council passes weakened shoreside power resolution

Tuesday night, after considering a resolution in favor of shoreside power plug-ins for visiting cruise ships, Charleston City Council passed a watered-down version of the original resolution. Whereas the original resolution called on state lawmakers to mandate the use of plug-in power at the planned Union Pier cruise terminal in Charleston, the new one deferred the matter to the State Ports Authority’s judgment.

City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie introduced the original resolution, saying it was about “putting people’s health first” and doing “what’s best, not what’s better.” Idling cruise ships release pollutants and known carcinogens into the air while docked in Charleston, and some downtown residents have complained about soot accumulating on their houses since Carnival Cruise Lines started coming to Charleston. Several neighborhood associations and environmental groups have called for the new terminal to include a plug-in for grid power so that cruise ships don’t idle in the harbor. Onshore power has been added to numerous cruise ports, including Brooklyn, N.Y.; Juneau, Alaska; San Francisco, Calif.; and Seattle, Wash.

A study commissioned by the Charleston-based Southern Environmental Law Center found that shoreside power could reduce carbon monoxide emissions from docked cruise ships by as much as 97 percent. The study also found that a 2,000-passenger Carnival ship emits 68.3 metric tons of nitrogen oxide a year while idling in Charleston. With shoreside power, the same ship would emit only 0.8 metric tons of nitrogen oxide per year.

Jim Newsome, president of the State Ports Authority, spoke against the proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting. Installing shoreside power would add an estimated $5 million to Union Pier’s projected $35 million price tag, and the SPA has been fighting the proposal tooth and nail. “There’s really no data that the cruise ships create a health problem in Charleston,” Newsome said at the meeting.

Dr. Gil Baldwin, a local physician, disputed that claim. He said the “elephant in the room” was polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are not affected by new “scrubber” technologies in cruise ships’ smokestacks. That particular category of pollutants has been linked to a long list of cancers, and Baldwin said shore power would virtually eliminate their emissions from idling ships.

During council debate over Gregorie’s resolution, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. introduced a shortened version of the resolution with more deferential language, and it ultimately passed 10-2. The new resolution states:

“City Council endorses the actions taken, and to be taken, by the State Ports Authority in maintaining and improving the air quality at the Union Pier terminal and supports the efforts by the General Assembly to assure that funding is available for the installation of shore power at the new passenger terminal, as and when needed.”

Jay Williams, a downtown resident and shore power activist, called the final resolution “a hollow victory” in an e-mail after the meeting.

“It’s sad that the same City Council that stomped out smoking on the sidewalks around our hospitals has never attempted to regulate far more serious toxic emissions from cruise ships in port — or demand the obvious healthy shore power alternative,” Williams wrote.

 

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/imager/city-council-passes-weakened-shoreside-power-resolution/b/original/4874437/a135/uncharted-magnum.jpg

illustration by Scott Suchy

http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2014/02/28/city-council-passes-weakened-shoreside-power-resolution

Both sides signal shoreside power win

BY Tyrone Richardson
trichardson@postandcourier.com
Posted: February 27, 2014
Both sides in the debate over cruise ship emissions claimed victories after Charleston City Council approved a resolution in support of equipping pleasure vessels with a shoreside power source “if needed” after a new passenger terminal opens.

Jim Newsome, the State Ports Authority’s chief executive, said Tuesday that the 10-2 vote was an endorsement that the maritime agency is “doing what is best to improve air quality in the harbor.”

Those seeking shoreside power and opposing the site of the SPA’s proposed terminal said the city resolution bolstered their cause as well. “The vote showed we’ve turned a corner on the cruise issue,” said Katie Zimmerman, program director at the Coastal Conservation League. “A few years ago, there was a rush to build a cruise terminal with no consideration of options for reducing impacts, but now there is openness to figuring out how to get this right.”

Environmentalists and neighborhood groups have complained about air pollution coming from cruise ships that idle their engines to generate electricity while at Union Pier Terminal. Most complaints single out the Fantasy, a 25-year-old vessel based in Charleston year-round.

Groups such as the Coastal Conservation League and Charleston Communities for Cruise Control said they appreciated the city resolution, even while describing it as watered-down compared to the original proposed by Councilman William Dudley Gregorie. Gregorie’s wording didn’t include “if needed” in regard to shoreside power.

He rescinded his version for another from Mayor Joe Riley. “It doesn’t require its use, but it acknowledges the significance of the problems and the potential shore power offers to solve them,” said Dana Beach, executive director of the Charleston-based league. Zimmerman added that the focus now shifts to an Army Corps of Engineers study ordered by a judge last year as part of a federal lawsuit.

The league and the Preservation Society of Charleston filed the complaint after the Army Corps issued a permit for a $35 million cruise terminal the SPA wants to develop at the north end of Union Pier. The Army Corps was ordered to go back and assess the impact the new passenger building would have on area properties. “Options like shore power will be thoroughly examined in the federal review process for a new terminal,” Zimmerman said.

A spokeswoman for the Army Corps was not available for comment Wednesday. The Fantasy must run one of its six engines to generate electricity while in port, prompting calls for the SPA to require vessels to plug into a shoreside outlet.

The SPA has defended its measures to reduce air pollution at Union Pier. It hasn’t fully embraced the use of shoreside power, saying better, less costly options are available. Last week, the agency announced that Carnival will outfit the Fantasy with air-pollution scrubbers during a planned overhaul in October 2015. The devices are designed to reduce sulfur dioxide and have filters to trap soot. Also, the SPA will install an air-quality monitor at Union Pier.

The council resolution says the city supports the General Assembly in assuring that money is available for shore power at the new terminal if and when it’s needed. A House’s budget-writing committee recently approved up to $5 million to pay for it.

The SPA said in a statement Wednesday that its new terminal “would be equipped to handle a shore power connection, if necessary.” “The SPA has and will continue to significantly contribute to air quality improvements, and we will monitor air quality on Union Pier to ensure a true representation of the facts and full compliance with identified regulatory standards,” the statement said. “If any further action is required, that is based upon a change in standards or air quality, the maritime industry and SPA will respond appropriately.”

Carrie Agnew, executive director of the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, said her group was pleased with the resolution, but she added that the debate over cruises isn’t over. Her organization remains “equally concerned with a more appropriate location for the new terminal other than in the heart of the Historic District,” and it is seeking a binding agreement that limits the size and number of cruise ships in Charleston, she said.

The SPA is opposed to such caps.

Statement Regarding City Council Meeting from Tuesday

C4 is proud that Councilman Gregorie prepared a resolution supporting shore power. We are pleased that a modified version was ultimately approved by City Council. It is our sincere hope that the health and quality of life of Charleston’s citizens will continue to matter of concern, through Councilman Gregorie and we look forward to a full examination of the benefits of shore power option as the federal environmental review gets underway for the proposed terminal.

Charleston City Council scheduled today to vote on shore power resolution

by Tyrone Richardson

 

Charleston City Council is scheduled today to vote on a resolution in support of adding shoreside power capabilities at the State Ports Authority’s downtown cruise passenger terminal.

Councilman William Dudley Gregorie introduced the city resolution, saying shore power at the Union Pier Terminal will improve air quality in the downtown.

Shoreside power is a hot-button topic in the growing debate about pollution from cruise operations in downtown Charleston.

Environmentalists and neighborhood groups have complained about pollution in the historic district coming from cruise ships idling their engines at Union Pier. Most complaints target the Fantasy, a 25-year-old vessel based in Charleston year-round.

The Fantasy now must run one of its six engines to generate electricity while in port, triggering calls for the SPA to force vessels to generate power with a shoreside outlet.

There could also be state money set aside for shore power. The House budget-writing committee recently approved up to $5 million to equip Union Pier with shore power. That means the funds will be included in the proposed budget that will be sent to the House for a vote.

The SPA has been reluctant to embrace shoreside power, saying the agency does not want to be held to one single measure to reduce emissions from cruise ships.

The agency said there are other technologies to lessen emissions.

Earlier this month, Newsome argued the case during an SPA board meeting that was attended by Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and several City Council members.

During the presentation, Newsome announced that the Carnival Fantasy will be outfitted with air-pollution scrubbers when the vessel goes into dry dock in October 2015.

The scrubbers are designed to reduce sulfur dioxide, with filters to trap soot.

Also, the SPA will ask the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to add an air-quality monitor at its Union Pier Terminal.

Following the presentation, several City Council members, including Dean C. Riegel and Aubry Alexander, questioned if it would be premature to approve the shoreside power resolution.

Newsome is scheduled to make the same presentation today before the full City Council.

Shoreside power advocates support resolution

Click here to see the newsclip or read the verbiage below.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Charleston City Council is debating whether it should pass a resolution supporting shore power for cruise ships. The measure would require ships to use electricity while docked instead of its onboard diesel engines.

A group of supporters is pushing to make it a reality.

“We want people to still want to come here.  We don’t want them to be overwhelmed,” said Carrie Agnew.

She loves Charleston, but she worries about its future as a tourist destination because of pollution from cruise ships.

“If you’re going to be doing something, you want to be doing the most advanced thing as possible.  And I think Charleston deserves no less,” said Agnew.

She’s executive director of Charleston Communities For Cruise Control, also known as C-4.  Her group wants city leaders to push for shore power at a proposed passenger terminal at Union Pier.

“We just think it makes much more sense when you’re building a new cruise terminal to be fiscally responsible and environmentally sensitive and do the right thing,” said Agnew.

Carnival has already promised to install exhaust-gas cleaning technology on its Charleston-based “Fantasy” next year.  It’s already begun using low-sulfur marine gas oil.

Officials from the State Ports Authority say more than $16 million has been spent in the last ten years to reduce the environmental impact of its operations.  They support Carnival’s efforts to do the same.

Still, advocates of shore power say more needs to be done to protect the environment and people.

“The amount of soot on my porch increased significantly,” said Gil Baldwin.

He lives near Union Pier.  The retired doctor is also a medical advisor for C4.  He, too, is concerned about pollution from cruise ships.

“We know that plug-in power reduces these harmful, very carcinogenic materials to virtually zero,” said Baldwin.

A simple vote for cleaner air

A simple vote for cleaner air

If Charleston City Council, when asked Tuesday to support reducing air pollution from cruise ships, says “no,” local residents should have some serious concerns about the people who have been elected to represent them.

A resolution by Councilman Dudley Gregorie simply supports adding shoreside power capabilities to the new Union Pier passenger terminal that the State Ports Authority wants to build. Doing so would allow cruise ships to turn off their particulate-spewing diesel engines and run on electricity while docked.

The debate over cruise ships in Charleston has been long and heated about whether they bring too much crowding and too few economic benefits.

But the Medical Society of Charleston and the state medical association have both called for shoreside power to all but eliminate emissions that can harm people’s hearts and lungs and have been associated with cancer.

Those emissions could be reduced significantly by switching to shore power.

Neighbors of the port have talked about the buildup of soot on their homes from cruise ships and their health concerns about breathing polluted air. Numerous ports have made the switch to shore power to address health risks.

Recognizing that, the federal Maritime Administration recently agreed to contribute $700,000 for the construction of a test hydrogen cell power system at the Port of Honolulu. Why? It would be cost effective and more environmentally friendly than diesel fuel.

Carnival Cruiselines, wanting to use less expensive fuel than the government is mandating, is experimenting with scrubbers to reduce some of the emissions, and thereby satisfy those tougher regulations.

Anything to reduce pollution is good, but scrubbers are not the final answer in Charleston. Dr. Robert Ball, chairman of the Charleston County Medical Society’s Public/Environmental Health Committee, said, “Scrubbers are inadequate to satisfactorily address long-term public health concerns. They are, according to current data, one-fourth as efficient as shore power.”

Still, the SPA has not embraced the idea of shoreside power. It is working with DHEC toward monitoring the impact of vessels’ engines.

And a port spokeswoman alluded to “more modern technologies that provide equal or greater benefit,” but offered no specifics.

That possibility is hardly an excuse for failing to include shoreside power in plans for the terminal. If, before construction, something far superior appears, plans can change. But if it doesn’t, the people who live and work and visit the area near the port should be assured that they will be spared noxious emissions.

Mr. Gregorie hopes that if council approves the resolution, the state Legislature will take note as it considers setting aside up to $5 million to install shore power.

The allocation was proposed by Reps. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, and Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston. It has been approved by the House Ways and Means Committee.

City Council could mend some fences and demonstrate it has residents’ best interests at heart by supporting Mr. Gregorie’s resolution. Failing to do so would send a message that members don’t really care if people are exposed to cruise ship air pollution. Or if members do care, they don’t care enough to take a stand on the issue.

Or it could signal that Charleston’s elected officials are more interested in pleasing the SPA than taking care of residents. The people of Charleston are as eager as the rest of the state to see the port continue to be a success. But it isn’t as if the SPA would be asked to do anything many other ports aren’t already doing by using shore power.

Banners on numerous houses in downtown Charleston call for reducing cruise ship emissions by adding shore power. Neighborhood associations support the idea.

The movement isn’t arbitrary or insignificant. And data support what they stand for.

Cleaner air for Charleston? There’s no reason to say “no.”

Scrubbers can’t erase…

The South Carolina State Ports Authority announced last week that Carnival is retrofitting many of its cruise ships, including the Charleston-based Fantasy, with scrubbers to reduce air pollution.

While it is good to see some acknowledgement of the risks posed by diesel particulate soot, the reality is that the scrubber proposal is part of a Carnival plan to avoid burning cleaner fuel otherwise required by law.

What’s more, the fact remains that shore power — plugging in a cruise ship while it is docked — is the cleanest option available. Not only does shore power reduce the total amount of pollution emitted by hundreds of tons per year, it would disperse the remaining pollution over a much larger and less populated area.

Announcing the investment of scrubbers and filters by Carnival, SPA President and CEO Jim Newsome said that “the Fantasy’s exhaust comprises 0.05 percent of total pollutant emissions in Charleston County.”

This statement shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the danger associated with the pollutants from a significant diesel source: location, location, location.

When it comes to air pollution, and especially diesel air toxins, proximity matters. Other ports have located industrial cruise terminals away from population centers for that reason. Other ports have also installed shore power — including at the cruise terminal in Brooklyn, where a Carnival ship calls.

In Carnival’s eyes, Charleston is not worth that investment. In fact, Carnival’s proposal to use scrubbers is part of an overall corporate campaign to avoid burning cleaner fuel while in port and out at sea. The International Maritime Organization, and subsequently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, approved a regulatory plan that required ships to start burning cleaner fuel in 2010, and fully phases in by the year 2015. Carnival led a major lobbying effort to overturn that rule, and ultimately was able to encourage the EPA to allow flexibility to the law through the experimental use of scrubbers and filters.

The EPA has granted the trial under the assumption that the scrubbers and filters will achieve the same effects as burning the cleaner fuel, but we will not know until the experiment begins.

Further, once the scrubbers and filters are installed on a ship, that particular ship no longer has to burn cleaner fuel. The use of scrubbers and filters adds to water pollution from cruise ships.

Studying the washwater left over from scrubbing and filtering, the EPA has pointed out that “use of scrubbers to clean the exhaust from marine engines using high sulfur residual oil and diesel fuels may lead to high concentrations of a number of harmful compounds in the water body around the ships.” These harmful compounds include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the largest known group of cancer-causing substances. PAHs also change the genetic materials of mammals, and bioaccumulate in edible shellfish consumed by humans.

The washwater also contains dangerous metals, such as arsenic, copper, lead, nickel, and selenium. Impacts from exposure to these metals include impaired organ function and reproduction, birth defects, and if at a high enough exposure, acute mortality.

In tests of scrubbers on cruise ships, the EPA determined that the amount of PAHs and metals disposed of could pose a risk to humans and other affected mammals and shellfish, and could also exceed water quality standards on a localized scale. Limits recommended by the International Maritime Organization “may not be sufficiently protective.”

The Post and Courier’s recent coverage of this debate included statements from our city leaders, such as “I think it [shore power] should be installed when needed … when it proves direct environmental benefit and it’s cost effective,” as well as “why is it necessary at this time?”

The data are here. It makes sense to include shore power in the design for the new cruise terminal. We also know the cost-sharing structure from other ports, including Brooklyn, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Juneau, among others.

We know shore power will protect the most lives in our dense downtown where many people work, live, and visit.

The time for shore power is now. Any delay or refusal to acknowledge this fact makes it very clear where our elected leaders stand on a deadly threat to the public’s health.

Katie Zimmerman is program director of the Coastal Conservation League.

CHS | Why we’re lucky to have the Post and Courier

There are big differences in journalistic integrity among today’s newspapers.  Some papers refuse to be self-critical, some papers stifle comments and opinions opposed to their editorial positions, are critical of the paper or one of their reporters or columnists.   Some were once “great newspapers” that became great by reporting stories honestly and serving as a forum for an open public discourse of issues and ideas.   But in the industry’s new era of cost-cutting, media bias and compromise, many have slipped.
Today the editors of Charleston’s Post and Courier demonstrated greatness.  It wasn’t simply because they published the op-ed below, but because this particular op-ed openly criticized the viewpoint of a popular columnist.  They didn’t have to publish it.  No one would have known.  But they published it.  Unedited.  Charles Rowe and the P&C editorial board deserve credit.  We’re fortunate to have a newspaper in Charleston run by people who still care about journalism’s highest calling.

Here’s that op-ed: “Court keeping a Close Eye on Cruise Issue.”

BY JAY WILLIAMS

If Brian Hicks and Mayor Joe Riley are your only information sources about the proposed Union Pier cruise terminal project, you may be forgiven for not knowing much about it. Especially about two of the most recent lawsuits.

A recent Hicks column began, “The State Supreme Court was pretty dismissive to the ‘cruise control’ crowd last month” before saying that the justices “were sort of condescending.” And “if that wasn’t dismissive enough,” Hicks continued, “Mayor Riley called the lawsuit ‘almost laughable’ from the start.”

Fortunately, there are more nuanced commentators…

Please continue reading in today’s printed Post and Courier or at this link:

http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140218/PC1002/140219420/1021/court-keeping-a-close-eye-on-cruise-issue

 

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr., published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and discussions about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is involved with various local organizations, the opinions he expresses are solely his; they do not represent the views of any organization or other individual.  Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. We present these blogs for C4 website visitors as an information source and as an additional way to chronologically follow the debates, commentaries and discussions about cruise tourism in Charleston.

Charleston-based Fantasy cruise ship to get new pollution scrubbers, port says

Cruise ship emissions are talk of the State Ports Authority board meeting today.

SPA chief executive Jim Newsome announced the Carnival Fantasy will be outfitted with air-pollution scrubbers in October 2015.

Also, the ports authority will add an air quality monitor at its Union Pier Terminal, where the Fantasy is home-ported.

The ship’s emissions have become a focal point in a movement to limit cruise visits in downtown.

Right now, the Fantasy must run its engines to generate power while in port, triggering calls for the SPA to invest in so-called shoreside power.

Newsome said the Fantasy’s exhaust comprises 0.05 percent of total pollutant emissions in Charleston County.

Also, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is making a rare appearance at the SPA meeting.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Riley came to discuss a City Council member’s plan to introduce a resolution next week supporting of the use of shoreside power for cruise ships.

The meeting started at 1 p.m.

The Post and Courier was first to report on the resolution today.

The SPA has been opposed to investing in shoreside power. Riley has mostly supported the maritime agency’s on issues involving its cruise operations.

The installation of a shoreside power source would enable cruise vessels to get electricity by plugging into outlets that would have to be installed at Union Pier Terminal.

The SPA has said that isn’t cost effective. It also has said it’s been looking at other alternatives to address air emissions from ships tied up at Union Pier.

Back shore power

Back Shore Power

My home is on Laurens Street. The city long ago zoned Laurens Street, which is adjacent to the proposed cruise terminal, for high-density residential development. This zoning means there are many families living in this very small area.
There are already 60 condominium homes, which are a stone’s throw from where the cruise ships will be docked.

Also approved for development on Laurens Street are two additional high-density residential buildings, one of which would be for senior citizens, many of whom will likely have pre-existing health problems.

My question to Mayor Joe Riley and the members of City Council who blindly follow his lead is this: How can you first zone an area for high-density residential living and then in good conscience propose to place ships proven to emit huge amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide emissions immediately adjacent to all these homes?

On Feb. 25, at 5 p.m at the Charleston City Council meeting, council member Dudley Gregorie will introduce a motion in support of shoreside power for the proposed new cruise terminal.

I strongly encourage all residents of the city to attend this meeting and take a stand with Mr. Gregorie in support of shoreside power.

I thank Mr. Gregorie for his caring stance on behalf of all citizens.

Tommie Robertson

Laurens Street

Charleston

Page 1 of 3123