Well, well, well…. Flags up! Shore power now!
I wish to commend Drs. Gilbert Baldwin and Robert Ball for their well-documented case for cruise ship shore power (op-ed, Feb. 9).
One major point was, “Ongoing nearby monitoring of particulate soot and air pollution requires major resources, and it is not a priority among the SPA, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the City of Charleston and other organizations concerned more with jobs than public health.”
What is striking to me is that DHEC seems not to be concerned with public health or the environment. To whatever extent this is true, there needs to be some explanation.
I suggest the governor conduct a nationwide search for a public health trained physician with experience to lead our state’s public health and environment agency.
Moultrie D. Plowden
Those favoring regulating toxic cruise ship pollution won a hollow victory Tuesday night. Facing an overflow crowd of concerned citizens, the Charleston City Council passed resolution that “the city supports the actions of the state General Assembly in assuring funding is available for shore power at the new terminal when needed.”(1) [emphasis supplied] In spite of the 10-2 vote, the fragility of the City Council’s commitment came with the final two words, “when needed,” words that were added in the last moments to obtain majority support. And without the strong endorsements of Councilmen William Dudley Gregorie and Mike Seekings, even this weakened resolution wouldn’t have gone anywhere.(2,3)
Eliminating the soot, smoke and sulphur dioxide wafting over Charleston caused by cruise ships idling in port is such an obviously good idea, you’d think everyone would be for it. But they’re not. According to the Post and Courier, “[Mayor Joe] Riley has said that the city should allow SPA (SC Ports Authority) time to figure out if shoreside power will be needed at the new cruise terminal.” Really, Mr. Mayor? They’ve already wasted years; how much time do they need? And even with the squishy language of the resolution, two Council members, Rodney Williams and Dean C. Riegel, still voted against it. Reigel said that the SPA’s presentation showed that a resolution would not be necessary since it could limit the agency’s efforts to control emissions. Councilman Riegal said, “I see no need for a resolution, I think they are doing all the right things.”(1) If doing nothing is doing all the right things, he’s right.
Jim Newsome, the SPA’s CEO, made that 10-minute presentation before the vote. He claims that the 25-year-old “Fantasy” will be retrofitted with “scrubbers” that will reduce sulpher dioxide and soot when it goes into dry dock in October, 2015, and the SPA plans to add an air quality monitor to the new terminal. But even after years of complaints about soot, smoke, and health issues caused by cruise ships, neither has been done, and even the promise that anything will happen is a year and a half away. Let’s be real: the ancient “Fantasy” isn’t far from the scrap heap, “scrubbers” are a weaker substitute for shoreside power in removing pollutants and particulates, and “scrubbers” on the “Fantasy” won’t stop airborne pollution from other cruise ships calling at Charleston.
We’ve witnessed Carnival’s murky environmental record on the TV news, but do you also sense the SPA’s lack of concern?(4)
Jim Newsome parsed his words when he said there “is no data that cruise ships create a health issue in Charleston.” Note that prepositional phrase, “in Charleston.” Because cruise ships do pollute, and there’s lots of data.(5,6,7) But if that statement didn’t give you a sense of Jim Newsome’s commitment to reduce cruise ship emissions, consider this one: “I think the general thrust is that they [the Council] endorse that we are doing what is best to improve air quality in the harbor and we will see where it goes from there.”
Are you breathing easier?
In 2012, in an op-ed written by Dr. Stephen Schabel of the Charleston County Medical Society, he noted a proposed resolution claiming that the “average cruise ship discharges four times the amount of airborne pollutants, especially sooty particulates, compared to the average cargo ship, thus affecting residents and visitors when ships run their engines continuously…for hours while passengers embark and disembark.” Dr. Schabel added, “The effects of airborne pollutants have been shown to include increased chronic respiratory and heart diseases and increased cancer risk, especially among dockworkers, merchants and residents closest to the docks” and that “onshore power” reduces “airborne cruise ship pollutants by up to 90%.”(8)
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.
# # #
–Jay Williams, 27 Feb 14
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.
1) Charleston City Council approves resolution supporting shoreside power – Post and Courier
2) Charleston City Council to address support for shoreside power… – Post and Courier
3) Shore power is the wave of the local cruise future – Mike Seekings – Post and Courier
4) Disney Gets Top Grade on Cruise Ship pollution Report – USA Today
5) 2013 Cruise ships pollution – Friends of the Earth
6) Air samples at cruise ship docks worldwide – Friends of the Earth
7) Harboring Pollution – strategies to clean up U.S. Ports – Natural Resources Defense Council
8) Reduce the risks of air pollution from cruise ships – Dr. Stephen Schabel, Charleston County Medical Society – Post and Courier
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.
illustration by Scott Suchy
BY Tyrone Richardson
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.
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 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.