August 14, 2020 in Breaking News

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

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By David Wren

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.

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