State regulators deny further review of permit for cruise terminal
State environmental regulators Thursday denied a group’s request for further review of a permit for a new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston, an official said.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board ruled against an appeal that challenged its staff’s decision last month, which awarded a permit for the State Ports Authority to install pilings.
The denial makes the staff’s approval the final decision for DHEC, setting the stage for a possible legal battle and more delays for the terminal project. Opponents can challenge the permit in the state’s Administrative Law Court.
Allen Amsler, DHEC’s board chairman, did not respond requests for comment Thursday.
A group of more than a half-dozen neighborhood associations, preservationists and environmentalists filed an appeal days after the Dec. 18 decision by DHEC, claiming the agency’s staff failed to look at all impacts of the terminal.
On Thursday, most of those groups did not respond to a request for comment about whether they will pursue the issue in court.
Carrie Agnew, executive director of the Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, said in statement that the nonprofit is willing to take the appeal further and that “we do plan on joining others who are so included in an appeal of the decision made.”
On Wednesday, DHEC staff sent a letter to the board defending its research before awarding the permit and urging the panel to uphold the approval.
Also this week, an attorney for SPA requested the DHEC board allow the issue to be resolved in court.
If the issue goes to the Administrative Law Court, it will add 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. The new $35 million terminal is proposed for a former warehouse at the north end of Union Pier, near Laurens Street. The original completion date was fall 2012.
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.
Jim Newsome, CEO of the ports authority, said the DHEC permit was issued “based upon thorough assessment of the current and proposed operations at Union Pier.”
“With the ... permit in hand, we have all necessary authorizations to move forward with converting the existing warehouse building into a state-of-the-art cruise facility,” he said Thursday.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.