Published June 20, 2011
Both houses of the General Assembly have joined the S.C. Chamber of Commerce in voicing support for Carnival Cruise Lines days after environmental and neighborhood groups sued the line over its operations in Charleston.
The S.C. Senate passed a concurrent resolution along with the S.C. House late last week to thank Carnival for the company’s positive economic impact on the state.
The resolution went out of its way to note that Carnival belonged to an industry trade group that has a code of “strict” environmental standards and that the company was committed to “operate in a balanced and environmentally sensitive manner”
Carnival was thrust into the debate over how many cruise ships are too many cruise ships after the Southern Environmental Law Center agreed to represent the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, the Coastal Conservation League and the Preservation Society of Charleston. Carnival is the only defendant in the lawsuit.
The groups say they’re looking for clarity on how the cruise line operates on Charleston’s waterfront, but they also accuse Carnival of breaking local zoning, nuisance and environmental permitting laws. The complaint has 12 counts and wants to require Carnival to go through the processes required of other Charleston tourism businesses.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has been very vocal in his and the city’s support of the cruise industry and Carnival in particular. He was joined in a news conference by officials from the S.C. State Ports Authority, the International Longshoremen’s Association and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce soon after the lawsuit was announced to show support for Carnival.
Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, chairman of S.C. Ports Authority’s Review and Oversight Commission, sponsored the resolution in the Senate.
The resolution, which can be read online, points out Carnival’s contributions to the state’s economy by buying local products and services, directly or indirectly putting hundreds to work in the area or helping local spending by providing an avenue for cruise guests and crew members to visit Charleston.
The resolution says that while the city is a museum, it also is “a treasure that should be shared, not sheltered.”
The S.C. Chamber of Commerce offered its support of Carnival soon after the lawsuit was filed. President and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce Otis Rawl said the lawsuit has the potential to set a “dangerous precedent.”
“South Carolina prides itself on being a tourism-friendly state, and this lawsuit sends the wrong message to companies considering locating here,” Rawl said. “Businesses like Carnival Cruise Lines are critical to economic development and essential to creating jobs and wealth for South Carolinians.”