SC Supreme Court won’t rehear case giving Charleston cruise terminal opponents their say

By David Wren dwren@postandcourier.com

Aug 10, 2020 Updated Aug 12, 2020

A last-minute appeal from one of South Carolina’s top politicians failed to sway state Supreme Court’s justices, who unanimously rejected a request to reconsider their previous ruling in a lawsuit over whether Charleston residents can oppose a new cruise ship terminal.

The high court on Friday turned down a request to rehear the case weeks after Jay Lucas, speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives, argued that state residents don’t automatically have a right to challenge environmental permits even if they’ll be affected by their outcome.

Lucas filed a “friend of the court” brief month requesting a rehearing in the years-old case, drawing criticism from project opponents who called his filing “inexcusably late.”

The denial means the S.C. Administrative Law Court must now consider evidence and testimony from opponents of the terminal to determine whether the State Ports Authority can get a permit to build the terminal at Union Pier in downtown Charleston. The Supreme Court in February overturned the lower court’s 2014 ruling that said people living nearby — as well as historic preservation and environmental groups — didn’t have a right to fight the permit issued by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Blan Holman, one of the attorneys representing opponents of the terminal, said the high court’s decision will have far-reaching environmental consequences. 

“We are relieved that the Supreme Court upheld the rights of families and property owners to protect themselves from unlawful pollution,” he said. “The State Ports Authority’s attempt to gut challenges to illegal DHEC permits would have crippled our ability to protect our beaches from offshore oil drilling and defend our neighborhoods from toxic waste dumps. All South Carolinians should breathe a sigh of relief.”

A spokeswoman for the SPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The authority and DHEC had also asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its earlier ruling.

Click to view article

[divider_top]

Carnival’s cruise ships pollute more than all of Europe’s cars study

By Melissa Locker

Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary just can’t seem to quit polluting the planet. As the Financial Times reports, Carnival’s pollution problem is so bad that across its fleet, the large boats pollute 10 timesmore than all 260 million of Europe’s cars. That tidbit comes courtesy of a study by the European think tank Transport & Environment, which looked at 203 cruise ships sailing European waters in 2017. The organization found that Carnival–and its brands–were the proud owners of seven of the 20 most polluting cruise-ship lines.

The report also found that besides over-tourism and crashing into ports, there’s a good reason for European cities to dislike cruise ships: they are emitting sulfur dioxide all over the place. If you can’t keep your pollutants straight, sulfur dioxide causes both acid rain and lung cancer. Cruise lines, it turns out, have been dropping the gas all over Europe; the report says Barcelona, Palma Mallorca, and Venice were the cities worst affected by sulfur dioxide emissions. Per the FT, “sulfur dioxide emissions from cars was 3.2m kt versus 62m kt from cruise ships, with Carnival accounting for half that, the study found.”

The report comes just days after Carnival agreed to pay a $20-million fine and undertake increased monitoring of its delightful practice of dumping sewage and plastic waste directly into the ocean (as well as its leaking gas, dirty water, and oily discharge). The company apparently tried to cover up its environmental misdeeds by falsifying records, fixing problems right before inspections, and even trying to get the U.S. Coast Guard to redefine the terms of its environmental compliance plan.

This isn’t the first time that the company has admitted culpability. It has a long list of environmental violations dating back to 1993. Carnival was hauled into court in 2016, and the company pleaded guilty to dumping oily waste from its Princess Line ships; it was fined $40 million and given a five-year probation period. On Monday, it admitted to violating that probation, which resulted in this latest $20-million fine as well as a dressing down by U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz. “You not only work for employees and shareholders. You are a steward of the environment,” she told Carnival CEO Arnold Donald, according to NPR. “The environment needs to be a core value, and I hope and pray it becomes your daily anthem.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

We reached out to Carnival for comment or, you know, a plan to stop polluting. Here’s what they sent:

CLIA and its cruise line members are committed to a zero-emission future, as is the entire maritime sector. The cruise industry represents less than 1% of shipping and is making progress towards this goal, but it will take time. The industry welcomes the involvement of civil society in this discussion and is disappointed Transport & Environment has published the internal analysis, conducted exclusively by internal staff, without discussion, input or updated insights from the cruise industry or cruise destinations. There is further concern that the results have been published without any academic scrutiny, peer review or scientifically-robust methodology.

[divider_top] [divider_top]

The SPA needs a course correction

by Jay Williams

Click to view online

The SPA needs a course correction

February 5, 2020

|Jay Williams, Jr.

The Advocate

First Scots’ Fellowship Hall was so packed for January’s Charlestowne Neighborhood Association meeting, that some CNA members were left standing to hear the presentation from the State Ports Authority (SPA).

Ms. Barbara L. Melvin, the SPA’s chief operating officer, began by touting the port’s decade of continuous annual growth, dredging the harbor from 45’ to 52’, the new Leatherman Terminal project, its 535 employees and $300 million in annual revenues. Then she got to its cruise business.

The attendees perked up.

The cruise industry represents just four percent of the SPA’s business, Ms. Melvin said and we’re staying within our “voluntary restrictions” of 104 ships a year, with a 3,500 passenger limit, hosting only one ship in port at a time. She also said that they have made “traffic more tolerable for people who live downtown,” adding that they pay for the off-duty police officers to assist.

But when Ms. Melvin veered close to addressing a passenger fee for the city, she demurred and said, “These passengers are cargo. We, as a port, are not in the tourism business.”

For many present, hoping for a discussion on quality of life issues, that assertion was nonsensical. “My jaw dropped,” said Carrie Agnew, executive director of Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, “It’s such an insensitive thing to say to people who live here.”

It wasn’t the first time.

The Advocate quoted Jim Newsome, the SPA’s president and CEO, last year as he offered that same argument. And again two weeks ago when Newsome told the Post and Courier, “We’re not in the tourist business; we’re in the maritime commerce business. The city doesn’t have a right to tax maritime commerce, so we think it’s an idea that doesn’t have legs.”

But here on land, that “maritime commerce” literally has legs. It is inundating our city and it’s as unwanted and as frequent as the flooding. The SPA’s “cargo” drives their cars through the city, ambles down our streets, uses our city’s infrastructure and facilities, leaves litter and debris and meanders through our shops seldom buying anything because this “cargo” knows they’re sailing to the Bahamas or the Caribbean to spend their money.

In many ports, the city owns the cruise terminal, but Charleston’s ports are owned by the SPA, a public-private consortium very loosely supervised by the state legislature. This autonomy has buttressed the SPA’s intransigence.

City Councilmember Mike Seekings offered his thoughts after the meeting, “We’re in the business of running a historic city that is growing, that has needs and that means we need better infrastructure to support the maritime business.

“The cruise business,” Seekings said, “is not just water based with no impact on the land. They’re using the city’s resources and we’re getting nothing. Those passengers transit on and across city property and they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the cruise ships.”

A Landing Fee

What’s Seeking’s solution? “We don’t want to tax cruise ships, but we should have a landing fee for people coming in and out of the city. People who are using our resources should help pay for our resources,” he said. “Right now there’s only one industry exempt from that.”

“To allow someone at the end of Market Street to do hundreds of millions in business by taking people away from the city of Charleston, without paying any benefits to us, is inequitable,” Seekings said. “When people make that transition from maritime commerce into the city of Charleston, that’s the transition point where we collect that landing fee.”

Mayor John Tecklenburg took a slightly different approach in his State of the City address last week, citing flooding, “That’s why we’ll be meeting with state officials in the coming months to discuss changes in state law that would allow all our visitors, including hotel guests and cruise ship passengers, to help fund flooding solutions … supporting a responsible, reasonable extension of Home Rule …”

Jack O’Toole, the city’s director of communications, added emphasis to the mayor’s comments, “There are eight million people who come here and 140,000 who live here and we all need to contribute to solving the flooding problem. We need to look at the big picture.” O’Toole said the city is in conversations with the state delegation to work with the legislature to change the law so the city can raise taxes on tourists. “Under state law right now, we can’t raise the money,” O’Toole noted.

There’s another solution we should advance immediately. We could negotiate directly with Carnival to get voluntary fees for Charleston. Carnival is in the consumer business, they likely don’t view their passengers as “cargo,” and they may be open to offering the city a pass-through cost of $20 per passenger. It would be good public relations for Carnival and both the mayor’s office and Seekings thought the idea was worth pursuing.

The three-by-three-by-three Opportunity

Too little is known about an important Army Corps of Engineers Charleston Peninsula Study, guided by “the three-by-three-by-three rule.” Launched in October, 2018, this feasibility study will evaluate all possible actions to provide long-term coastal storm and flood risk management all around the Charleston peninsula. Depending on the location, those options could include concrete walls, tide gates and breakwaters as well as soft barriers and enhanced marshes.

This study is so named because it will be completed in three years, for $3 million and will involve all three levels of Corps review. Although this federally-funded study won’t be finished until October 2021, a draft report will be released for public review this April.

This is a big opportunity, Seekings says, citing the plethora of issues that must be discussed between the ports authority and the city. “We need to engage in conversation. This study may recommend a 12’ linear, land-based wall that could seriously affect Ports Authority property. Also, the SPA wants to sell parts of Union Pier anyway, even if they get permission to build a new terminal there. That land is wildly valuable. But the city controls the zoning and that zoning will impact the value,” Seekings noted. “We should be partnering.”

The Advocate has consistently recommended that the SPA move cruise ships up river to the Veteran’s Terminal. It has better access to major highways, plenty of parking and is better positioned for homeland security in this age of threats and viruses. This is just one of the many topics the SPA should put on the table for serious discussion.

The three-by-three-by-three study is coming up and any solution will impact both the ports and the city. The Union Pier land is exceptionally valuable and must be sold for a higher and better use than a waterfront parking lot — ideally a small-scale urban development consistent with historic Charleston’s downtown. Charleston is environmentally fragile from the water and on land; by definition, a cruise terminal is a threatening neighbor. At minimum, there must be remote parking to eliminate traffic gridlock and shore power to further reduce pollution. And Charleston doesn’t have enough money to address the frequent flooding conditions jeopardizing cruise passenger access or the city itself.

The SPA needs to come about.

[divider_top]

Editorial: SC Ports Authority, city of Charleston need to find common ground on cruise ships

By The Editorial Staff Feb 16, 2020

Click to read online

It’s been more than a decade since Charleston and the State Ports Authority began their epic feud over the proper presence of cruise ships next to the city’s historic core. There’s been precious little progress made, and we hope that changes soon.

There’s simply too much at stake beyond the cruise business.

As the S.C. Supreme and the U.S. District courts prepare to rule on aspects of the dispute, both sides should commit to restarting a dialogue about how they can find common ground and reset the important relationship between the state agency and the city. We recognize leadership will be required, and any breakthrough will take each side out of its comfort zone.

Cooperation between the city and state led to the creation of the State Ports Authority in the early 20th century, and its success has been crucial to South Carolina’s modern economy. But the state’s economy also thrives on tourism, and the dramatic success of historic Charleston is one of the leading drivers of that. This success was brought about partly by aggressively regulating many aspects of tourism under the correct belief that Charleston is an attractive place to visit foremost because it is an attractive place to live.

We don’t expect a resolution of the long-standing cruise debate would produce a clear winner or loser in this long-running dispute, partly because its complex nature includes the following issues:

  • Whether there should be a legally binding penalty if the SPA exceeds its voluntary cap of no more than one cruise ship docking at a time, no more than 104 visits a year. The authority has abided by the cap for years and says it has turned down business to do so, but some in the city rightly wonder why, if the authority’s intent is to comply with the limit, it finds such a provision a problem.
  • Whether cruise ship passengers should be taxed more to contribute to the city, where struggles with flooding and sea-level rise have increased dramatically since the cruise ship controversy began. Ports Authority CEO Jim Newsome has argued cruise ships are just another form of maritime commerce, but Mayor John Tecklenburg said, “I respectfully believe that having cruise ships here is more than a maritime business.”
  • Whether the authority should take further steps to reduce cruise ship emissions while in port. Mr. Newsome said low-sulfur fuels have improved the situation, and any decision on shore power is tied up with the following issue.
  • Whether a new cruise ship terminal should be located on Union Pier, near the current, outdated facility. The debate over this facility and what sort of mitigation the state should provide the city to help offset impacts on the Historic District are the basis of the pending lawsuits.

As with most big disputes, there’s fault on both sides. Mr. Tecklenburg has talked about the desirability of a new tax on cruise passengers to help pay for the city’s infrastructure needs, but he has not yet sat down personally with ports officials to make his case. Mr. Newsome and his board have excelled in positioning the Port of Charleston for long-term growth but have seemed insensitive at times to legitimate local concerns. This problem isn’t unique to Charleston. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey has his own frustration with the authority stemming from issues related to the new Leatherman terminal there.

The time is right for fresh talks, especially as the Ports Authority renegotiates a long-term deal with Carnival Cruise Line, whose ship Sunshine is based here, and as it plans for the future sale of its vast Union Pier site downtown.

There is some validity to the notion that no one wins except the lawyers whenever disputes are settled in court. When the two opposing sides are both arms of government — and accountable to many of the same people — inaction and litigation only increase cynicism about whether our government is really working for us.

[divider_top]

Carnival cruise ships collide at Cozumel, 6 people injured

Click to read article online

Two Carnival cruise ships collided off Cozumel, Mexico, Friday.

The Carnival Glory had an allision — when a moving ship hits a stationary ship — with the Carnival Legend as the Glory was maneuvering to dock, the cruise line told FOX Business. The cause wasn’t immediately clear.

Six guests on the Glory have been evaluated for minor injuries, according to Carnival.

Carnival said it was assessing the damage but there were no issues affecting the seaworthiness of either ship. The cruise line said it had advised guests from both ships to “enjoy their day ashore in Cozumel.”

Witnesses’ videos showed damage to the Glory’s stern well above the waterline.

The Legend is on a seven-day cruise from Tampa, Florida, while the Glory is on a seven-day cruise from New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Glory is 952 feet long and weighs 110,000 tons. Its normal cruise capacity is 2,980 guests and it has more than 1,100 crew members, according to Carnival. The Legend is 963 feet long and weighs 88,500 tons. It has a normal cruise capacity of 2,124 guests and has a crew of about 930.

The collision came the same day that Carnival Corp posted better-than-expected revenue and profit, Reuters reported. Carnival said its net revenue increased 7.3 percent to $4.78 billion, beating analyst estimates. A big part of the increase was on-board spending, which rose by about 30 percent.

[divider_top]

Environmentalists balk at Carnival’s pollution control plan for Charleston, other ports

By David Wren dwren@postandcourier.com

The company that keeps its Sunshine pleasure ship at Union Pier Terminal in downtown Charleston is defending its use of scrubbers to comply with global emissions standards that begin in 2020.

Under the International Maritime Organization mandate, shipping lines will be required to use fuel that contains no more than 0.5% sulfur — or install equipment that reduces sulfur dioxide emissions — starting in January.

The coming demand for low-sulfur fuel — and potential shortages — means it will be more expensive than today’s bunker fuel, which contains 3.5 percent sulfur. Some analysts predict fuel prices will rise by one-third, and the higher costs will be passed throughout the transportation chain.

Some ship operators, Carnival Cruise Line included, have gone a different route by installing pollution-control devices called scrubbers that help filter sulfur dioxide from smokestack emissions so the vessels can use the higher-sulfur fuel yet remain compliant with the new rule.

The scrubbers aren’t cheap — they run as high as $5 million apiece — but Terry Thornton, Carnival’s senior vice president, told The Post and Courier they’re more cost-effective in the long run than buying expensive low-sulfur fuel.

That plan has run into opposition from environmentalists, who have called for a moratorium on scrubbers. They cite evidence in a criminal pollution case against Carnival that showed the devices failed multiple times, leading to significant air pollution.

Such pollution is one reason environmental and historic preservation groups and some Charleston residents are going to court to fight the development of a new cruise passenger terminal at Union Pier. Tommie Robertson told The Post and Courier in June that black smoke from the ship stacks have made her sick while sitting on the porch of her Laurens Street home.

Last month, a webcam operator in the Bahamas posted video of a Carnival ship belching black smoke while docked in Nassau, prompting environmentalists to again call on Carnival to switch to low-sulfur fuel rather than rely on ineffective equipment.

Carnival has responded to the controversy with a new website that argues scrubbers aren’t just the best way to reduce sulfur dioxide but also a host of other airborne pollutants.

Scrubbers “have the proven capability to outperform low-sulfur fuel alternatives,” the website states, adding they provide “overall cleaner air emissions in a way that is safe for ocean environments.”

Thornton said the technology has long been proven in land-based uses, such as reducing pollution at factories.

“The challenge has been fitting it into the space we have on our ships,” he said. “Our existing ships were never designed for the space this technology requires.”

To date, Carnival has invested $500 million in scrubbers and installed more than 220 of them on its fleet. The Sunshine has been operating with scrubbers for months and is “fully compliant,” Thornton said, with the new rules. The same is true for the Ecstasy, which called Charleston its home port until the Sunshine replaced it in May.

“We’ve made tremendous investments in all the technology that’s needed to meet those requirements,” he said of the IMO regulation.

That’s not likely to satisfy environmentalists. In a May 14 letter to the IMO’s secretary general, 10 environmental groups called on the maritime agency to take action.

“As Carnival Corp.’s criminal debacle has shown, (scrubbers) are not the answer to delivering air pollution reductions for the shipping sector,” the groups wrote, asking that scrubbers be banned pending a study in which the IMO “reviews the technology’s marine and air pollution impacts.”

[divider_top] [divider_top]

CHS | The SPA can’t be left unleashed by Jay Williams Jr.

Is the Sunshine drawing rave reviews?  Not from Charleston residents.  
 
This isn’t about the heat; this Sunshine is the third in line of ever-larger Carnival ships to be home-ported here. For one citizen “sucked into the traffic undertow” on the East Side, the 3,000-passenger Sunshine represents a chilling reminder of the negative, largely unregulated repercussions of the SC State Ports Authority’s (SPA) cruise terminal operations in Charleston.  
 
For years, the SPA has run roughshod over residents’ concerns about cruise ship pollution, noise, traffic, congestion, and illegal dumping and environmental impacts. Bringing in a newer, bigger ship that instantly increases traffic, tourists, and congestion makes everything worse—and there’s no end in sight.  These ships will get bigger.  
 
Watch the Supreme Court argument
 
Can neighboring residents rein in the SPA and reduce the harmful effects of the cruise terminal?  The South Carolina Supreme Court will hear oral argument on this decisive case at 10 a.m., June 11thin Columbia.  If you care about your rights, you need to be there.  The significance of this decision goes well beyond the cruise terminal issue.
 
For eight years the SPA has relentlessly pursued the construction of a new cruise terminal declaring that the existing terminal is inadequate and doesn’t meet Homeland Security requirements.  But to build on the harbor, it needs both federal and state permits.
 
The SPA applied for and received its federal permit.  But six years ago, after opponents filed suit to oppose it, United States District Court Judge Richard Gergel tossed the SPA’s federal permit to build a $35 million terminal at Union Pier and blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to adequately review the project’s effects as mandated by Congress. “I think you did an end run,” he told the Army Corps lawyers. “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.
 
“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,” he said.  The federal judge also referenced evidence contained in a 1,200-page filing that the new terminal is being designed for larger ships than now call here, and that the new terminal could more than triple the number of cruise passengers visiting the city.  
 
The Army Corps is expected to render its revised decision later this year.
 
South Carolina has a parallel permitting role.  The SPA got a state permit for a new cruise terminal from DHEC, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Once again, that permit was challenged– this time the result was different.  

Administrative Law Judge Ralph King Anderson III ruled that thecitizens’ group plaintiffs which included environmental, historic preservation, and neighborhood groups, “lacked standing” and couldn’t challenge DHEC’s approval of the permits. The groups appealed, but the SC Court of Appeals sided with Judge Anderson, forcing them to make a final appeal to the SC Supreme Court.
 
Blan Holman, managing attorney in the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Charleston office who represents some of the citizens’ groups said, “On June 11th, the Supreme Court will hold oral argument on whether neighbors have any standing to challenge the lawfulness of permits issued for a new cruise terminal that would be located right next door to them.  Lower courts held that neighbors do not have standing because the injuries are felt by too many people. 
 
“We contend that injury to more than one person does not render a permit unchallengeable.  If anything it should require stricter review. The hearing is open to the public so that those interested can see the wheels of justice in motion. The court won’t rule at the hearing, but will issue an order some number of months down the road.”
 
Many observers suggest that there are broader citizens’ rights issues involved.
 
Attorney Holman agrees, “The issue before the Supreme Court goes to the right of families and property holders across South Carolina to contest unlawful pollution permits. If a person who physically experiences soot pollution first-hand at her home has no standing, then it is hard to imagine who would ever have standing. That should be a concern statewide since it would limit citizens’ rights to contest permits for toxic waste facilities, sewage plants, nuclear sites — you name it.”
 
The cruise industry powerhouse
 
In May, 2015, SPA CEO James Newsome told city council that the “one sector that has not grown at all is the cruise sector” citing similar passenger counts of 186,000 for both 2011 and 2015. “It’s not a growth industry, we’ve said that from the start.” He added, “The market for cruise ships in this port is not that big, it will never be that big.” Later in that speech, Newsome said that, “In 2010 … we had 67 cruise ships.” What he didn’t say was that Charleston would host 93 ships that year—an increase of almost 30-percent.
 
Perhaps CEO Newsome didn’t realize that worldwide cruise industry growth was exploding.  In 1990, four million cruisers set sail, but last year 27.2 million cruised the oceans, and 35-percent of them sail into the Caribbean.  Here in Charleston, we reached the SPA’s “voluntary limit” of 104 ships annually for the third year in a row.   
 
Cruise passenger growth distresses most downtown residents. Although the SPA voluntarily agreed to a limit of 104 ships annually with a maximum of 3,500 passengers per ship, those limits aren’t binding. A much-heralded city ordinance during Mayor Riley’s reign did not codify those limits as many had thought; it merely obligates the SPA notify the city a year in advance if it wants to exceed those “limits.”
 
As they wait for their permits, the SPA has lived up to its “voluntary limits.” But because these limits are not binding, you have to wonder what will happen if the SPA gets the permits necessary to build a new terminal.
 
Since 2011, citizens opposing the Union Pier site have proposed an elementary solution: Locate the new cruise terminal away from historic downtown. Potential sites include the underused 110-acre Veterans Terminal at the old Navy base near highways and able to handle cruise traffic without creating congestion. 
 
But the SPA has repulsed every suggestion to mitigate the negative impacts on Charleston, including moving it, adding shore power, adding a passenger fee to aid the city, developing off-site parking to reduce cruise traffic congestion, and returning some of the world’s most valuable waterfront parking lot to the city for taxable housing and development.  

Carnival is no prize either.  Since 2017, Carnival ships have been on probation by the federal government after the company admitted to “record falsification and numerous instances of prohibited discharge,” including multiple violations in Charleston waters.
 
The SPA can’t be left unleashed.  Residents must have legal rights to protect their health and property, and any cruise terminal permit must include key restrictions to protect our city.   This Supreme Court hearing could not be more important.
#  #  #
CHS | A blog commentary about Charleston.  Please share with friends. Comments are always welcome – please click on the reply button. Comments, if published, will be posted anonymously.  

This column appears as “The Advocate” on page 2 of The Charleston Mercury.
[divider_top]

Cruise ship case’ to go before state’s highest court

By Kaitlin Stansell | June 6, 2019 at 10:22 PM EDT – Updated June 6 at 11:32 PM Click to view

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Attorneys and community members entrenched in a legal dispute over expanding the cruise ship industry in downtown Charleston are gearing up for a hearing before the state supreme court next week.

It’s been called the “cruise ship case” as it’s made its way through the court system, and now it’s getting its day before the state’s highest judges.

Environmental groups and community advocates have challenged the SC Ports Authority and Department of Health and Environmental Control over state-issued pollution permits related to the expansion of the cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston.

“My primary concern is with air quality,” said Tommie Robertson. She lives off Laurens Street, a neighbor to the current cruise ship pier. “That’s impacted very negatively both by the ship itself, their emissions and also by all the cars that come in. Then, there’s traffic congestion, and then there’s noise pollution.”

However, the argument has moved past environmental concerns. The focus of June 11th’s hearing will be to ask the SC Supreme Court to review and reverse a prior decision by a lower court. The plaintiffs claim the Court of Appeals shut the door on Charlestonians who aimed to appeal state-issued pollution permits for a proposed terminal.

“Do communities, community groups have the ability and the right to protect themselves from pollution, and that’s really what’s at stake,” said Amy Armstrong, the Executive Director and General Counsel for the SC Environmental Law Project. “I think that would, should be concerning to anyone. All citizens of the state of South Carolina because we all want to protect our health, our quality of life, the quality of our environment.”

The state ports authority wants to build a newer and bigger terminal to host larger ships and more of them.

By Kaitlin Stansell | June 6, 2019 at 10:22 PM EDT – Updated June 6 at 11:32 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) – Attorneys and community members entrenched in a legal dispute over expanding the cruise ship industry in downtown Charleston are gearing up for a hearing before the state supreme court next week.

It’s been called the “cruise ship case” as it’s made its way through the court system, and now it’s getting its day before the state’s highest judges.

Environmental groups and community advocates have challenged the SC Ports Authority and Department of Health and Environmental Control over state-issued pollution permits related to the expansion of the cruise ship terminal in downtown Charleston.

“My primary concern is with air quality,” said Tommie Robertson. She lives off Laurens Street, a neighbor to the current cruise ship pier. “That’s impacted very negatively both by the ship itself, their emissions and also by all the cars that come in. Then, there’s traffic congestion, and then there’s noise pollution.”

However, the argument has moved past environmental concerns. The focus of June 11th’s hearing will be to ask the SC Supreme Court to review and reverse a prior decision by a lower court. The plaintiffs claim the Court of Appeals shut the door on Charlestonians who aimed to appeal state-issued pollution permits for a proposed terminal.

“Do communities, community groups have the ability and the right to protect themselves from pollution, and that’s really what’s at stake,” said Amy Armstrong, the Executive Director and General Counsel for the SC Environmental Law Project. “I think that would, should be concerning to anyone. All citizens of the state of South Carolina because we all want to protect our health, our quality of life, the quality of our environment.”

The state ports authority wants to build a newer and bigger terminal to host larger ships and more of them.

The debate isn’t against cruise ships though. Instead, it’s a fight to make sure the future of the industry in the Charleston Harbor is environmentally responsible.

“We’re only going to see more and more of this,” said Winslow Hastie with the Historic Charleston Foundation. “These issues aren’t going to go away. Again, I think the residents, the people who live closest to these impacts are the ones most directly affected and so they need to have a voice.”

The case goes before the state’s highest court on June 11th at 10 a.m. in Columbia.

A free round-trip bus ride is being offered to people wanting to join the efforts.

The bus will depart from downtown Charleston around 7:30 a.m. and arrive in Columbia at 10 a.m. Oral arguments are expected to last one to two hours.

You can reserve your seat and get more details at https://p2a.co/xE3IB2w

DHEC said the state agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation, and the state ports authority did not respond for a statement, but a spokesperson said the US Army Corps of Engineers is expected to decide on the federal permit by the end of the year.

Copyright 2019 WCSC. All rights reserved.

[divider_top]