Environmental, neighborhood groups appeal judge’s ruling on cruise terminal

By Liz Segrist
Published April 23, 2014

The S.C. Environmental Law Center filed to appeal a recent ruling on a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

The center filed the appeal Monday with the state Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Ralph Anderson III’s April 11 ruling, which threw out the lawsuit that attempted to block the cruise terminal construction.

A group of conservationists, preservationists and neighborhood groups filed last year with the center to block state permitting that would enable the S.C. Ports Authority to upfit an old warehouse at Union Pier into a cruise terminal. The lawsuit stalled construction for more than a year.

Anderson of the S.C. Administration Law Court recently ruled that the group did not have enough grounds to challenge the planned $35 million cruise terminal.

Following that ruling, Blan Holman, senior attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center said: “The decision is a wrong and dramatic departure from legal decisions recognizing that people have the right to challenge unlawful pollution.”

The petitioners include: the Preservation Society of Charleston, the Historic Charleston Foundation, the Historic Ansonborough Neighborhood Association, the Coastal Conservation League, Charlestowne Neighborhood Association, the Charleston chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Charleston Communities for Cruise Control.

Case background

In December 2012, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management issued the permit authorizing the ports authority to make improvements to a building for a cruise terminal at Union Pier.

The environmental and historical groups filed in February 2013 to contest the merits of DHEC’s decision to issue the permit. The groups said DHEC did not extensively review the cruise issue and terminal impacts on surrounding neighborhoods before issuing the permit.

In March 2013, counsel for the ports authority consulted with the coalitions’ counsel saying that the “motion was frivolous” and the ports authority would seek sanctions if the plaintiffs did not withdraw the motion, according to court documents.

The plaintiffs did not withdraw their motion. In May 2013, the Administration Law Court ruled the motion had no basis in law, according to court documents.

In March, Anderson ordered the groups to pay the ports authority $9,300 in legal fees, according to court records. Anderson ruled that the groups were objecting the permit solely to delay the project. He then ruled this month that they did not have enough grounds to prevent the project.

This is one of three lawsuits that have involved the cruise operations in downtown Charleston in recent years.

The state Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit in January that alleged Carnival Cruise Lines’ operations in downtown Charleston were a nuisance to city residents.

In September, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District to redo its study of the permit for the new cruise terminal, which is ongoing.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

Related coverage: 
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S.C. Supreme Court throws out cruise lawsuit

SPA, Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw cruise terminal permit appeal

Ports Authority appeals judge’s decision on cruise terminal study

Groups to pay ports authority in cruise terminal lawsuit

DHEC staff asks board to deny cruise permit review

Groups ask for review of cruise permit

Cruise permit receives mixed reaction

S.C. State Ports Authority intervenes in cruise lawsuit

Lowcountry symposium tackles cruise issues

Judge sends cruise lawsuit to S.C.

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