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Shoreside power advocates support resolution

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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

Look Familiar?

Check out this photo of Carnival amidst New York…. Charleston is next.
Manhattan-20140221-00082

CHS | The Lawsuits; what you may not know

CHS |  The Lawsuits; what you may not know

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

The most 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 [sic] dismissive enough,” Hicks continued, “Mayor Riley called the lawsuit ‘almost laughable’ from the start.”(1)  Fortunately for Charleston, there are more nuanced commentators.

It’s correct that the SC Supreme Court dismissed the case concerning Carnival Cruise Line’s alleged violations of local and nuisance ordinances on a technicality, saying that the various neighborhood and preservation organizations weren’t the proper parties to make these claims.  But the court also said that individuals could bring claims in a separate lawsuit.(2,3)   Importantly, the court did not say any of the claims lacked merit, and as new claims may be raised against Carnival in the future, the suggestion that the court was “condescending” or that the claims are “laughable” is pure spin.

In a separate statement, Blan Holman, the Southern Environmental Law Center attorney representing the plaintiff’s noted that, “Today’s court ruling did not address whether Carnival’s home basing operation complies with local ordinances, or whether it is a nuisance that interferes with the property rights of neighboring home owners, as the plaintiffs alleged.”(4)  These are the allegations that Mr. Hicks and the mayor have elected to ignore.  Then there’s that second case…

Last September, as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit for the planned $35 million cruise terminal at Union Pier, he minced no words declaring that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area.  Chastising the Corps’ attorneys, Judge Gergel said, “I think you did an end run, you gave this permit the bum’s rush.”   Refusing to accept the SPA’s specious argument that the waterfront terminal only needed a federal permit to install five new pilings, the judge told the defendants’ attorneys, “You have an obligation to look at the entire project.  “You haven’t done what the law requires you to do by reducing a 108,000-square-foot project to 41 square feet of pilings. The process got distorted by limiting it to five piers.”(6)  This blog correctly predicted that the SPA and Army Corps would defiantly appeal the ruling, and they did before reconsidering their position last month.(7)

Because of this ruling, the Army Corps of Engineers must conduct a thorough review of all the environmental and historic impacts of locating a giant new cruise terminal at Union Pier.  Such reviews are very specific and Congressionally-mandated in these situations.  This is the same requirement that the SPA tried to evade earlier in its head-on rush to build a terminal before anyone might realize of all of its potential impacts.  Brian Hicks and Mayor Riley are no doubt upset by that failure to comport with the law.

Most importantly, Judge Gergel also highlighted the central problem of locating a cruise terminal near the heart of Charleston’s Historic District, arguably South Carolina’s centerpiece of tourism, culture, and economic development.  As the AP reported, “the judge said that there is evidence in the 1,200-page court record that the terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call and could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city.”(6)   And “triple” may be an understatement.

Later in his column, Brian Hicks wrote, “This is not over by a long shot.”  For that, he should be thankful.  Now there’s an opportunity during this federally-mandated process for the Army Corps to seek honest local input, do a thorough study of impacts, and research alternative locations for a cruise terminal.  Those contrived State Ports Authority “citizen input sessions” won’t cut it this time–a federal court will be watching.

Jay, 11 Feb 14

#   #    #

1)  Over, Cruise ship fight isn’t over until we say it is – Brian Hicks – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140202/PC16/140209942/1177/over-cruise-ship-fight-isnt-over-until-we-say-it-is

2)  Limit Cruise ship consequences on peninsula – Steve Gates – P&C
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20140204/PC1002/140209796/1021/limit-cruise-ship-consequences-on-peninsula

3) SC High Court throws out Cruise pollution case – Law 360
http://www.law360.com/articles/503095/sc-high-court-throws-out-carnival-cruise-pollution-case

4)  Supreme Court leaves legality of Cruise Harms in Historic Charleston unanswered  – Blan Holman, SELC
http://www.southernenvironment.org/newsroom/press_releases/supreme_court_leaves_legality_of_cruise_ship_harms_in_historic_charleston_u/

5)  SC Supreme Court tosses lawsuit seeking to block cruise ship operations – Meg Kinnard – AP
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/241519801.html

6)  Judge tosses permit for SC Cruise Terminal – Bruce Smith – AP
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/judge-tosses-federal-permit-sc-cruise-terminal

7)  SPA and Army Corps of Engineers withdraw cruise terminal permit appeal – Charleston Business Journal
https://www.charlestonbusiness.com/news/50021-spa-army-corps-of-engineers-to-withdraw-cruise-terminal-permit-appeal

 

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.