Archive for October 2016

Charleston cruise ship terminal hearing delayed — again

The battle over a new cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston won’t be overshadowed by the presidential election after all.

The state’s Court of Appeals, which was going to hear arguments in the cruise ship case on Election Day, canceled the Nov. 8 hearing “after careful consideration,” Jenny Kitchings, the clerk of court, said in a letter sent to lawyers on Friday. There is no new date for the hearing, which has been delayed numerous times over the past two years due to scheduling conflicts.

With the court’s calendar set for the rest of this year, it likely will be 2017 before the case returns to the docket.

The case pits several Charleston area environmental and historic preservation groups against the State Ports Authority and the state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC granted a permit in 2012 that would let the maritime agency place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an old warehouse at the north end of Union Pier. The SPA wants to spend about $35 million at that site on a new terminal for cruise ships, replacing a nearby 1970s-era building used mostly by Carnival Cruise Lines.

The environmental and preservation groups filed a lawsuit opposing DHEC’s ruling, but a state Administrative Law Court judge ruled the groups did not have a right to sue. An appeal of that ruling was filed in April 2014, and all sides have been waiting since then to present their arguments in court.

The groups, which are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, say they oppose the new terminal because it would add to congestion and pollution near the city’s Historic District, threatening its unique character. They want the terminal moved farther north.

The SPA says its voluntary limit on the cruise ship business — no vessels with more than 3,500 passengers and no more than 104 ships per year — will address those concerns. The SPA’s current cruise ship terminal is just a few hundred feet south of the proposed facility and the maritime agency says a new facility would improve traffic patterns.

The SPA also needs a federal permit to proceed with the project. The Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing an application for that permit but has not set a timetable for its decision. A previous permit application was tossed out by a federal judge in 2013 because the proposal did not consider the terminal’s impact on the city’s historic district.

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Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

Join the Caravan to Columbia on November 8!

FINALLY!!!!!

The SC Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in our State case challenging DHEC’s issuance of a permit to the State Port Authority for election day, Tuesday, November 8, at noon.

Yes, that is election day.

The arguments will be in Courtroom 1, SC Court of Appeals, 1220 Senate Street, Columbia.  The building is called the Calhoun State Office Building, and the entrance for the court is on the north side of the building, near the intersection of Senate and Sumter Streets.

This is our chance to PHYSICALLY show our belief in the case….Bodies will matter!!

TO THAT END: C4 has worked with the Coastal Conservation League to organize transportation to/from Columbia if enough people commit to coming.

Please RSVP at this link by November 3.  We currently have space for 14-30 people.

C4 and the Coastal Conservation League are happy to cover the cost of the transportation, but as always any donations would be much appreciated!!

Those who choose to join us in Columbia will be back well prior to 7:00PM to vote!!!!!! There is always the option to vote beforehand as well–we anticipate getting on the road to Columbia at 9 AM.

As you may recall, the main issue on appeal is whether C4 and the other groups have legal “standing” to challenge the permits issued by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for SPA’s proposed new, larger cruise terminal on Laurens Street. The sanctions imposed on us by the ALC will also be reviewed at the hearing.

Our attorneys have appealed a S.C. Administrative Law Court decision which held that our groups had no legal right to challenge DHEC’s approvals. The judge reasoned that none of our members would suffer any injury from a 100,000 sq ft., $35 million cruise terminal built to home-base 3500-passenger vessels in downtown Charleston.

Because the ALC threw the case out for lack of standing, we never had the opportunity to present the merits of the case. On appeal, we contend that the terminal’s localized air pollution, increased traffic, and historic neighborhood degradation are more than sufficient to allow our day in court.

As stated above, the public is welcome to attend Court of Appeals hearings.  The Court has advised counsel to arrive early, since cases beforehand may end early.