State environmental regulators today denied a request to review a permit for a controversial new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston, an official said.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board won’t revisit its staff’s decision last month, which allows the State Ports Authority to drive pilings at a former warehouse at the north end of Union Pier.

The denial makes the staff’s approval the final decision for DHEC.

A group of more than a half dozen neighborhood associations, preservationists and environmentalists filed an appeal days after the Dec. 18 permit decision, claiming the agency’s staff failed to look at all impacts of the new terminal.

Opponents can challenge today’s board’s decision in the state Administrative Law Court.

If the issue goes to court, it adds to other legal challenges about cruise operations in the city, including a state Supreme Court case alleging Carnival Cruise Lines violates city ordinances and nuisance laws. A court-appointed referee days ago recommended the state’s highest court hear claims that Carnival’s local operations could violate city nuisance laws. Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who heard arguments months ago in the case brought by preservationists, environmentalists and Charleston neighborhood associations, also recommends the panel toss out claims that the company violates local zoning ordinances and state pollution laws.

Earlier this week, an attorney for SPA requested the DHEC board deny the further review and allow the issue to be solved in court.

Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, has said the opposing groups prefer DHEC board take up the issue, arguing “there are some core questions that need to be addressed,” Neighborhood associations and the other groups have opposed the new terminal site, saying it will bring more tourists, traffic congestion and fumes to the historic district. They also have raised quality-of-life concerns and called for limits on cruise operations.