A South Carolina judge has denied a request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a state environmental permit for the construction of a $35 million cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.
S.C. Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson III ruled this week that a coalition of neighborhood associations, preservation groups and conservationists have standing to challenge a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control permit allowing pilings to support the proposed cruise terminal at Union Pier.
Lawyers for the S.C. State Ports Authority filed the motion to dismiss the case in July, alleging opponents have failed to prove injury from the DHEC decision.
In February, the coalition asked the state’s Administrative Law Court to review the DHEC approval, saying the decision violated parts of the S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act and the Coastal Management Program.
The filing came weeks after DHEC staff issued a permit allowing the SPA to drive pilings as part of the project to transform a 108,000-square-foot former warehouse into the cruise terminal.
Anderson sided with the coalition in his 16-page decision signed on Monday.
“At this stage of the proceedings, the Court finds that Petitioners have sufficiently alleged that the organizations have standing in that they assert their members will suffer an individualized injury and the protection of the members’ interests is germane to the organizations,” Anderson wrote.
Erin Pabst, a spokeswoman for SPA, declined to comment about the case on Tuesday.
“Due to the ongoing litigation, we can’t comment on the ruling,” she said.
Blan Holman, a Southern Environmental Law Center attorney who represents the coalition members, said the ruling proves that the appeal was the correct action.
“This ruling reflects the basic principle that Americans claiming injury from a project’s impacts and pollution should get their day in court to prove their allegations,” he said.
This is one of three lawsuits local neighborhood groups and environmentalists have filed in federal and state courts, saying the cruise terminal plan will bring more tourists, traffic congestion and fumes to the historic district.
A mediation session was recently scheduled for January in the federal case challenging an Army Corps of Engineers permit for the cruise terminal. In September, a federal judge ruled that the Army Corps redo the study that gave a permit for SPA to build the terminal. Both SPA and the Army Corps have appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.