Charleston Neighbors Fighting For a Voice in Cruise Case
Columbia, S.C. – Attorneys for neighbors living near Charleston’s Union Pier today argued that the citizens have a right to have their concerns heard when it comes to plans for building a new cruise terminal to host bigger, and more, ships.
The lawyers appealed a 2014 decision by an administrative law judge that declared neighbors were not “affected persons” who had the right – or the standing — to a hearing on state permits needed to build a new facility. In the decision, the judge sided with the South Carolina State Ports Authority and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, who said neighbors next to the 100,000 square foot terminal engineered to host bigger ships will not be affected at all.
The appeal of the administrative judge’s determination was heard today in the South Carolina Court of Appeals. A decision will come later.
“This appeal is about the right of neighbors to defend themselves from government action that harms their families, property and businesses,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Charleston office. “If state officials get their way, no one can challenge these permits even if the permits are illegal.”
The neighbors are seeking conditions on the permits that would lessen air and water pollution from the expanded cruise terminal and safeguard nationally cherished historic communities.
They are asking that the ships in port turn off soot-spewing diesel engines while docked and instead hook up to shore power as other port communities require. They’re also asking the state to at least consider other locations for a new cruise facility, such as the underused Veterans Terminal in North Charleston. And they’re seeking full transparency in cruise-ship water discharge reporting.
The water discharge reporting has become more crucial since this case was first appealed.
In December, the Carnival Corporation pleaded guilty to seven federal environmental crimes and agreed to pay $40 million as a penalty for polluting, and for extensive efforts to cover up the crimes.
Justice Department prosecutors said at least five Carnival Corporation cruise ships used “magic pipes” to bypass treatment systems, dumping polluted water directly into the ocean. That allowed Carnival to avoid the expense of proper waste disposal.
SELC and other attorneys represent the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the Charleston Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and Charleston Communities for Cruise Control. The case number is 2104-000847.