By Matt Tomsic
Published Oct. 8, 2012
In July, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Coastal Conservation League. The lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., argues the Army Corps of Engineers mislabeled construction needed for a new cruise terminal on Union Pier as a maintenance project, bypassing public review for the project.
The Army Corps and its officials are the only named defendants in the case, and the federal agency asked a judge to send the case from Washington, D.C. to South Carolina.
In late September, a federal judge granted the motion, saying the case could have been brought in South Carolina.
In the opinion, Judge James Boasberg also noted South Carolina is the plaintiffs’ home district, making it the proper venue.
“In contrast to plaintiffs’ choice, defendants have chosen plaintiffs’ home forum, which, unlike the District of Columbia, does have meaningful ties to the controversy,” Boasberg wrote. “Defendants have chosen the forum wherein the project itself, the decision-makers and the affected community are all located, thus giving the district of South Carolina a strong interest in the outcome of the dispute.”
Boasberg also notes the Army Corps prepared its documentation for the permit and made its decision to issue the permit in Charleston.
The case focuses on the Army Corps’ decision to issue a permit for new pilings to the S.C. State Ports Authority under its nationwide permitting rules. The new pilings will support the foundation of the new cruise terminal on Union Pier.
The classification allowed the corps to issue the permit without public notice and public hearings. The lawsuit argues the project is not a maintenance project and should go through a public review and public notification process.
“Issuing a maintenance permit to do work to convert a defunct cargo warehouse is a problem,” said Blan Holman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, when the lawsuit was filed. “The point is to bring this above-board.”