Jay’s Newest Post: Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

Can a federal judge save Charleston from becoming Venice?

In the nick of time, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed the permit for the SPA’s (SC State Port’s Authority) planned $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.  The judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project’s impacts on the area, accused the Crops of “doing an end run,” and chastised the Corps’ attorneys: “You gave this permit the bum’s rush.”(1)

Noting the problems the large cruise terminal could create for the environment and the city’s historic district, among the several critical impacts that should have been carefully studied, but weren’t, Judge Gergel told the Corps’ 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.”

The judge noted that within the 1,200 pages of documents that there is evidence “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,” according to Bruce Smith’s Associated Press report.(2)  The judge said, “Somehow the Corps has reduced a major project to something that is less than 1 percent of the project.  I feel like I’m a nanny here trying to get you to do what Congress intends.”   The judge did not say, but we will, that the existing pier at Union Pier is 1800′, easily long enough to accommodate any of the largest ships afloat!

The SPA’s relentless “hurry up” rush to build a new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown was, temporarily, at least, placed “in irons” by the decision.  The judge’s formal ruling could come at any time and will likely be issued within the next 30 days.  And what happens next will likely depend on Judge Gergel’s written order.

Swimmers take venice

Swimmers take venice

(photo credit: Protesters leapt into Venice’s Giudecca Canal to block cruise ships inside the port last week  They and 1,000 supporters say that the cruise ships tower over the historic rooftops and drown the city in tourism. Photo: Getty Images (3))

We’re “not sure if that [order] will require SPA to ‘reapply’ but it will presumably require the Corps to reexamine SPA’s application by looking not just at the pilings needed for a new cruise terminal, but the cruise terminal itself,” Blan Holman, managing attorney of the Charleston office for the Southern Environmental Law Center informed this blog.  “That is, the Corps would need to consider the impacts of building a new cruise terminal, and, as well, options for reducing or avoiding those impacts.  Shore power, satellite parking, limits on ship size and number, alternative [terminal] locations — these come to mind,” adding, “And it’s possible that the Corps and the SPA will appeal that ruling…”   Holman noted that there are two other lawsuits pending, “One is a challenge to DHEC’s approvals for the terminal; that matter is currently pending before the SC Administrative Law Court (ALC).”  And “The third piece of litigation is the lawsuit filed by several neighborhood associations, the Preservation Society, and the Conservation League against Carnival for violating zoning ordinances, permitting requirements and creating a nuisance.”

The importance of the judge’s written order can’t be overstated.  The impacts of cruise tourism, as the severely damaged city of Venice has found out, are varied and immense.  Last Saturday, when this Venice picture was snapped, unusual circumstances had allowed 12 cruise ships to head past St. Mark’s Square in one day!  The main problem in Venice, as a speaker informed the Preservation Society’s cruise conference last year, is that ships are permitted to dock adjacent to the historic city, are creating incredible, irreversible impacts to the city’s historic foundations, culture, civil structure, and local populace–over half of whom have left the city in the past three decades.  The only solution now, said the expert, is to move the port across to the mainland, away from the city; that would dramatically reduce the impacts.  That could be a solution in Charleston, too, as the Corps was required to study alternate locations for the terminal–and never did.

Judge Gergel’s decision is good news for Charleston.  “We welcome this ruling because it clarifies the obligation the SPA has to protect the environment and the historic character of the city.  We hope this will open the door for more productive discussions about how to best deal with cruise traffic in Charleston,” Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, told this blog.

We welcome it, too.  And we hope it forces the SPA and the city to look beyond their immediate interests and agendas and into the future.  Because that future will be crammed with ever-growing numbers of ever-larger cruise ships carrying millions more passengers every single year.(4)   Once upon a time, cruise ships weren’t a problem in Venice.  Now they are, and any solution will cost hundreds of billions–and come too late to save Venice.

–Jay, 24 Sept 13

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1)  Judge docks Charleston Cruise Terminal Study – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772

2)  Judge tosses federal permit for SC cruise terminal – Bruce Smith/AP
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/09/12/3622606/judge-tosses-federal-permit-for.html

3)  Protesters dive into Venice canal to protest cruise ships – The Telegraph (UK)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10326417/Protesters-dive-into-Venice-canal-to-block-cruise-ships.html

4)  Growth of the Cruise line industry – Cruise Market Watch
http://www.cruisemarketwatch.com/growth/

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

 

Jay’s Latest Blog

BULLETIN:

Federal U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed out the federal permit that was required to build the SPA’s (SC State Ports Authority) proposed new cruise terminal at Union Pier near downtown Charleston.(1)

After reviewing hundreds of pages of briefs and documents and hearing two hours of oral testimony, the judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review all the necessary criteria before issuing the permit and that its analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing the pilings. This marks a huge victory for conservationists and preservationists who had argued that the Corps did not take into consideration any of the impacts that a new terminal would have on the environment, the city or the historic districts before issuing its now jettisoned permit. The Corps and the SPA had argued that the installation of five new clusters of pilings underneath a building that was already used for maritime purposes would have little impact, but neighborhood, civic, and preservations groups, media outlets and this blog successfully argued that the permitting process itself had mandated a wider review.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Judge Gergel said in court today. This is one of three lawsuits filed against the cruise terminal that many opponents have charged will bring more unregulated tourists, traffic, congestion, noise and pollution into an area that could be permanently damaged as a result.(2) The SPA, the state legislature, and the city have all refused to put any restrictions on the rapidly growing cruise industry or its operations in Charleston.

–Jay, 12 Sept 13

1) Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal – Associated Press
http://www.live5news.com/story/23411575/sc-cruise-lawsuit-being-heard-in-federal-court

2) Back to drawing board for Army Corps… – Post and Courier
http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20130912/PC05/130919772/federal-judge-orders-more-review-in-cruise-terminal-permit

 

Written by jwilliams
The Charleston Cruise Control Blog, written by Jay Williams, Jr. and published periodically since May, 2011, consists of opinions and commentary about cruise ship tourism. Although Jay is a C4 Advisory Board member and a board member of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Assn., the opinions he expresses are his alone; they are not intended to represent C4 or any other organization or any member of any organization. Mr. Williams is an independent blogger/writer. These blogs provide C4 website visitors an additional information source regarding the cruise terminal debates and discussions in Charleston.

New chance to reduce cruise impacts

The Carnival ship Fantasy, when it is here in its home port, doesn’t just pick up and drop off passengers. It has a significant impact on the environment and the congestion on peninsula Charleston’s streets and sidewalks. It makes noise and looms larger than anything else in Charleston’s historic area.

A ruling by federal Judge Richard Gergel acknowledges that those consequences must be addressed before a new $35 million cruise terminal is permitted.

That means a delay for the State Ports Authority, which wants to convert an old shed into a large modern cruise terminal at Union Pier. We hope it also means that decisions will be made with more sensitivity to the city and its people.

The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston sued the Army Corps of Engineers over a permit it issued allowing five pilings to be driven on the waterfront for the proposed terminal. The pilings would be necessary to bear the weight of escalators and elevators.

The lawsuit has been viewed by some as baseless, misdirected obstructionism.

But Judge Gergel concluded otherwise — and strongly. On Thursday he said the Corps was dismissive of its duties to evaluate the project in its entirety, possibly “because they’re scared of what the answer is.”

He also noted what cruise industry enthusiasts have played down: The terminal is being designed for vessels even larger than the Fantasy. A ship accommodating 3,500 passengers instead of 2,000 would make a much bigger impact.

Neighborhood associations, preservationists and environmentalists have expressed concern that, unchecked by regulations, the industry will grow too large for this small area and will bring big problems that other historic ports like Venice are experiencing.

S.C. State Ports Authority President and CEO Jim Newsome has pledged to Charleston Mayor Joe Riley that the SPA will allow no more than 104 cruises a year without holding public hearings. The mayor has said he is satisfied with that.

His stance is surprising, given the broad regulations that otherwise govern historic Charleston: the color people can paint their homes, the number of pedicabs that can operate, tour boat operations, the scholarship of tour directors, and the number and location of hotel rooms.

The city has been asked to put regulations in place to control the cruise industry, not to eliminate it, but to limit inappropriate growth.

Carnival and the port have been challenged to commit to such limits, and to install and use plug-in power for cruise ships idling at the dock and producing the kind of emissions that have been associated with lung disease and cancer.

They have refused.

A new study commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center makes a strong case for shoreside power. Energy and Environmental Research Associates in Pittsford, N.Y., concludes that cruise ships in Charleston could dramatically reduce pollution by plugging into the electrical grid — even after regulations requiring ships to burn cleaner fuel are implemented.

The 2,000-passenger Fantasy, plugging in at dock, could reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 92 percent, ozone-causing nitrogen oxides by 98 percent, small particulate soot by 34 percent and carbon dioxide by 26 percent.

Incorporating shoreside power into any plans for a new terminal is only logical.

Historic Charleston, widely and deservedly praised for its preservation efforts, remains on the watch list of the National Trust for Historic Preservation as being at risk because of the impact of cruise ships.

The court-ordered review of the Ports Authority’s terminal project offers another chance to do the cruise business in Charleston the right way.

As taken from Charleston’s Post and Courier

Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal

Judge tosses federal permit for $35 million cruise terminal

By BRUCE SMITH
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) – A judge has tossed out a federal permit for a proposed $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston, saying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately review the project impacts.

The decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel is a victory for neighborhood and preservation groups opposed to Charleston’s expanded cruise industry.

Those groups sued saying the Corps needed to do a more extensive review of impacts on the environment and the city’s historic district. The Corps said that installing five clusters of pilings beneath a building already used for maritime purposes would have little impact.

But Gergel says the analysis was flawed by limiting it to installing piers. He says he’s issuing an order sending the permit back to the Corps for a wider review.

Back to drawing board for Army Corps after federal judge orders more review in cruise terminal permit

A federal judge has ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to redo its study that approved a permit for a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel said the federal agency did not study all aspects when it awarded a permit last year for five pilings to construct the $35 million terminal at Union Pier.

“The scope of the analysis was done wrong,” Gergel said in court on Thursday. The S.C. State Ports Authority wants to build a new cruise terminal to replace an aging one already at Union Pier. The pilings are needed to convert a former warehouse into the new terminal.

Gergel made the decision after hearing nearly two hours of oral arguments between lawyers in downtown Charleston.

The Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston are suing the Army Corps over the federal permit, saying partly that the Army Corps didn’t take into account the effect on historical properties.

Gergel sided with the groups on Thursday, saying the Army Corps should have looked at the historical and environmental concerns when it approved the project.

This marks one of three lawsuits opposing expanded cruises in downtown Charleston.

Anyone Know Where I Can Plug in My Cruise Ship?

Study: On-shore power would dramatically reduce cruise ship emissions

‘Waiter, there’s small particulate soot in my soup’

Posted by Paul Bowers on Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM

MIKE LEDFORD FILE PHOTO

  • Mike Ledford file photo

A new study shows that cruise ships docked in Charleston could reduce their carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 97 percent by plugging into the onshore power grid instead of idling their engines.

The report is fodder for an ongoing debate about the future of the Holy City cruise ship industry, sparked by the S.C. State Ports Authority’s plan to build a new $35 million cruise terminal in the historic district and by city leaders’ refusal to enforce caps on cruise ship traffic. Environmental and community groups have filed lawsuits in the matter and pushed SPA to consider incorporating power grid plug-ins in the new terminal design, as has been done at seven other U.S. ports including one in Brooklyn, N.Y., but SPA has refused to make the change. As a result, cruise ships will continue to run their engines at the Charleston port to power lights, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other equipment. In the new study, which was published Monday, these onshore electrical needs are referred to as the “hotelling load factor.”

The study, published Monday, was commissioned by the Charleston-based Southern Environmental Law Center and prepared by the Pittsford, N.Y.-based Energy and Environmental Research Associates, LLC. In estimating emissions, it used methodologies similar to ones used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.

Under current conditions, according to the report, a switch to onshore power would reduce emissions of carbon monoxide by 92 percent, nitrogen oxide by 98 percent, small particulate soot by 34 percent, and carbon dioxide by 26 percent. The study found that a 2,000-passenger Carnival ship emits 68.3 metric tons of nitrogen oxide per year in the time it idles at the Charleston terminal, whereas the same ship using shore-based power would emit only 0.8 metric tons in Charleston.

The study also looks forward to the year 2019, when Carnival will be operating larger 3,500-passenger ships that are expected to emit more pollutants. By then, the South Carolina utility SCE&G is also expected to have shifted toward natural gas and nuclear power generation, leading to lower emissions from the currently coal-based onshore power source. As a result, the study finds that the emissions cuts from switching to on-shore power would be even more dramatic in 2019: Carbon monoxide emissions would be reduced by 97 percent, nitrogen oxide by 99 percent, small particulate soot by 71 percent, and carbon dioxide by 36 percent.

SPA representative Allison Skipper says she has not seen the report yet, but that her organization “believes Carnival to be operating legally in Charleston” under federal MARPOL (Maritime Pollution) Annex VI emissions standards. Those standards, which went into effect in 2005, placed limits on ships’ emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.

The Coastal Conservation League, a vocal proponent of onshore power for Charleston cruise ships, is touting the report as support for their side in the debate. “People in Charleston are not anti-cruise,” says Katie Zimmerman, a program manager at CCL. “They just want a fair look at options used in other ports to manage cruise impacts and protect human health, and shore power is one of them.”

New Technology to Reduce Air Emissions Does Not Address All Concerns

Thew new technology to reduce air emissions sounds great in theory, BUT does it address the fact that the Carnival Fantasy would not be one of the ships to which they will add the scrubbers – so looks like our harbor will still be victim to nasty fuel and residue!

As taken from Charleston’s Post and Courier on September 8th:

Carnival Cruise Lines’ announcement last week that it plans to install new technology to reduce air emissions on 30 of its ships means more to its shareholders than it does to the people of Charleston who are concerned about dangerous pollutants. The company will install scrubbers to cut sulfur oxide emissions and filters to capture soot. It is cheaper than and expected to be as effective as using federally mandated cleaner fuel, according to the EPA.

And it still leaves Charleston in need of plug-in power for cruise ships while they are docked here.

When Carnival’s Fantasy is at dock for debarkation and embarkation, it continues to idle so that the air conditioning and lights will be operational. While it idles, it emits particulate matter. Even using the cleaner fuel that federal regulations will soon require, emissions would be a problem.

The Port of Long Beach, Calif., (which is switching to shore power) estimates shutting down auxiliary engines for a day is the equivalent of taking 33,000 cars off the road. That’s not good enough. Other ports have installed shoreside power and required cruise ships to use it. It has worked, and Charleston deserves no less.

As a matter of fact, it’s of particular concern here because the port is adjacent to dense residential areas, often crowded with visitors. Those kinds of emissions have been connected to lung disease, heart disease and cancer. Both the Charleston and the South Carolina medical associations have called for shoreside power. The health risk is one reason preservationists, neighborhood associations and environmentalists have sued Carnival. Other reasons are the ship’s impact on congestion as thousands of passengers come and go, noise from loudspeakers, and its visually overwhelming profile.

Soot also has been a major complaint. Maybe the new scrubbers will ease that problem. But altogether, the fear is that the city’s important heritage tourism will be diminished. Opponents haven’t asked that cruise ships be banned, only that they agree to reasonable, enforceable limitations as to the size of the ships, the number of passengers they hold and the frequency of visits here. The city of Charleston has failed to go along.

The port has made some strides in addressing air pollution. For example, it has implemented a program to provide financial incentives to encourage truckers to replace their old diesel rigs with more fuel-efficient trucks. Plug-in electrical power is another effort that the port could make that would improve the livability and the health of its neighbors.

So, Will Fantasy Be Cleaned Up?

All of this sounds great, in theory…. Does this mean that the City of Charleston and Carnival Cruise Lines are going to take measures to protect our precious city and harbor from  its effects?

——

Federal environmental regulators have reached a tentative deal with Carnival Cruise Lines to reduce air pollution for nearly a third of its cruise ships, officials said today.

The agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Coast Guard calls for Carnival to install pollution controls on up to 32 of its ships over the next three years, officials said.

The agreement with the Miami-based cruise ships operator will include Carnival paying $180 million in the new technologies, according to published reports.

Charleston is the home port for Carnival’s Fantasy pleasure vessel, the oldest ship in the company’s fleet.

Emission changes for the 19-year-old vessel is unknown, one Carnival official said.

Jennifer de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for Carnival, said the company is still determining which vessels will get the upgrades.

Cruise ship operations have been a hot-button topic in Charleston.

Some downtown Charleston neighborhood groups and environmentalists have filed lawsuits to block the S.C. State Ports Authority from opening a new $35 million cruise terminal at the north end of Union Pier, alleging it will bring more tourists, traffic congestion and fumes to the historic district.

As taken from Charleston’s Post and Courier, by Tyrone Richardson

Judge schedules arguments on Charleston cruise case for September

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

 

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favor without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.

 

BY BRUCE SMITH  Associated Press

Federal judge sets arguments on challenge to Charleston cruise terminal

Associated Press

Bruce Smith, The Associated Press August 16, 2013 12:43 PM

CHARLESTON, S.C. – A federal judge wants to hear attorneys argue why a challenge to a $35 million South Carolina cruise terminal should be settled without a trial.

U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel has scheduled arguments for Sept. 12 in the ongoing dispute over a federal permit for the terminal proposed for the Charleston waterfront.

Environmental and neighbourhood groups have sued. They say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should have more extensively studied the impact on the environment and the city’s historic district before issuing a permit allowing the South Carolina State Ports Authority to put additional pilings under a wharf.

The pilings are needed to transform an old warehouse into a new cruise terminal for the city’s expanded cruise industry.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court documents that allowing the warehouse to be used for a cruise terminal is a different and more extensive use than permitted in the past so. They said that means more review is needed under the law. They want the judge to void the permit and block the Corps from allowing any construction without more extensive studies.

Attorneys for the Corps have said the permit is not for a terminal, but only for installing five clusters of pilings beneath a structure that already is permitted for maritime uses.

Both sides have asked Gergel to rule in their favour without trial.

The judge has asked attorneys for both sides to come to next month’s hearing prepared to discuss the issues that would be taken up later if he rules a full trial is needed. A November court date has tentatively been set if the case goes to trial.

The case is one of three legal challenges to the terminal and the city’s expanded cruise industry.

A case before the state Supreme Court contends the cruises are a public nuisance and violate city zoning ordinances. Preservation and environmental groups have sued Carnival Cruise Lines seeking to block cruise operations and have the court declare it illegal to build the terminal.

The third case challenges a state permit issued for the pilings. That goes before a state administrative law judge early next year.

Three years ago, Carnival Cruise Lines permanently based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, giving the city a year-round cruise industry. Before that, cruise lines made port calls, but no ships were based in the city.