South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

SC has not yet reapplied for federal cruise permit
April 28th, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Seven months after a federal judge tossed out a permit for the South Carolina Ports Authority's planned $35 million cruise terminal, the agency has not yet reapplied for the federal approval.

But authority spokeswoman Erin Pabst says the agency is committed to the project and has been focused on a state permit needed to create the terminal in an old waterfront warehouse.

"The SCPA intends to provide a modern cruise facility at Union Pier Terminal and will pursue all the necessary permits," she said in an email.

It's been four years since the terminal was proposed. And it will be four years ago next month that Carnival Cruise Lines based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in Charleston, the first to be based in the city.

Tohe build the terminal, the Ports Authority needs a permit to place pilings beneath the old warehouse.

But last September, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel tossed the permit, saying the Army Corps of Engineers considered only the impact of new pilings in the water, not the larger project impact on the city's historic district. The Corps and the Ports Authority appealed to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but in January dropped those.

Sara Corbett, a spokeswoman for the Charleston District of the Corps, said the agency is still waiting for the authority to renew its permit application. When it is received, she said, it will be reviewed "consistent with the U.S. District Court's remand instructions and applicable law."

A South Carolina administrative law judge earlier this month dismissed a challenge to a state environmental permit brought by neighborhood, preservation and conservation groups, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge it. The groups allege the terminal will, among other things, hurt property values and the quality of life in downtown Charleston and increase water and air pollution.

Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson concluded the "petitioners have made many allegations and conclusory statements but have failed to set forth specific, admissible facts to support their allegations and statements."

Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the decision was wrong.

"The court went so far as to say that a citizen who lives next door to a pollution source and literally sees and tastes the diesel soot pollution has no right to defend herself and others from increased pollution," he said. "That is a shocking departure from existing law and would leave families completely at the mercy of big polluters."

The plaintiffs appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals last week and resolving the case could take months.

"In regard to the recent appeal to Judge Anderson's decision, the Ports Authority is confident in our DHEC permit and will let the courts decide," Pabst said.

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