South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Formal appeal is filed in Charleston cruise ship terminal dispute
October 15th, 2014

BY JOHN MCDERMOTT

Two Charleston neighborhood associations and other groups have filed a formal appeal to enable them to challenge permits for a new cruise ship terminal planned for the peninsula.

They are seeking to overturn a decision by S.C. Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson III, who dismissed their lawsuit in April.

Anderson ruled that the groups did not have standing to challenge the legality of state permits for the cruise building.

Blan Holman of the Southern Environmental Law Center said he and other attorneys filed the 74-page opening brief this week with the S.C. Court of Appeals.

They cited at least seven errors in Anderson's ruling. The briefing said the judge's April 11 decision "runs contrary to the General Assembly's intent in providing that all 'affected persons' can contest" permits issued by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

DHEC and the State Ports Authority are named as respondents in the appeal.

The groups challenging Anderson's ruling are: the Preservation Society of Charleston; Historic Charleston Foundation; Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association; S.C. Coastal Conservation League; Charlestowne Neighborhood Association; Surfrider Foundation's local chapter; and Charleston Communities for Cruise Control.

The SPA has been trying for several years to replace its aging cruise terminal near the City Market with a new facility at the north end of Union Pier.

The latest concept was unveiled in early 2010 but has been delayed by lawsuits.

In February 2013, project opponents asked the Administrative Law Court, which handles legal disputes involving state agencies, to revoke a permit that allowed pile-driving at the waterfront site. They said DHEC didn't extensively review the issue beforehand, alleging that violated the S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act and the Coastal Management Program.

The SPA has said in a court filing that the lawsuit was "frivolous, lacked any reasonable or defensible grounds of support, and was filed solely for the purpose of delay."

The terminal opponents are asking the appeals court to rule that they have standing to sue. They also are seeking to reverse an order that they pay the SPA about $9,300 for legal fees.

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