Case challenging new cruise ship terminal heads to SC Supreme Court

Local News

The Regent Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship calls in Charleston, S.C, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. A local group, Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, is forming a coalition with similar groups in Venice, Italy, and Key West, Fla., to push for tighter regulations on the cruise ship industry in small historic ports worldwide. The controversy […]

The future of Charleston’s cruise ship industry may rest with the state Supreme Court.

According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the high court has agreed to review an appeals court ruling that could affect plans for a new cruise ship terminal downtown.

Conservationists and people living near the Union Pier Terminal (UPT) have raised concerns about the project’s potential impact on the environment.

According to court documents, the South Carolina Ports Authority, which owns and operates UPT, plans to build a cruise ship terminal at an abandoned warehouse on the northern end of the property.  The facility is more than three-times larger than the existing passenger terminal.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Carolina Department of Environmental Control granted permits for the project.  The U.S. District Court of South Carolina later voided the permits from the Army Corps, saying the organization did not focus on the environmental impact of the new passenger terminal.

A separate case from residents and conservationists challenged DHEC’s permits for the project.  In 2014, the Administrative Law Court determined the plaintiffs did not have the right to question the legality of the permits.  The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in 2017.  On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court announced it would review the appellate decision.

“This is a case about neighbors across South Carolina having the right to challenge unlawful permits that would authorize major polluting activities right next door,” said Blan Holman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, who is representing a number of plaintiffs in the case.  

“The lower courts said families and businesses have no right to question permits for a large polluting facility or to hold the government accountable.  We believe the neighbors do have that right, and we are heartened that the South Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to consider this case.”

It is not yet clear when the state’s high court will take up the case.  The Ports Authority declined to comment.

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