To protect the health of the city's downtown residents, I am asking my fellow members of Charleston City Council to adopt a resolution in support of shore power.
The resolution will call on the State Ports Authority to make shore power available at its new state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal.
The times call for shore power as an integral part of this planned 21st century facility. Being equipped for "plug-in" will soon be the norm for newer cruise ships. Anything other than shore power is a bit shortsighted.
On Feb. 11, I will present to the Sustainability Advisory Committee, which I chair, a proposed resolution for consideration in support of shore power.
If approved, the resolution will go before City Council on Feb. 26 for a vote of support. While the City of Charleston has no jurisdiction over the SPA, it's important that Charleston City Council send a clear message to the SPA that we support shore power, also called shoreside power, for cruise ships that dock here.
The majority of the health concerns come from the Charleston-based Carnival Fantasy cruise liner.
Environmental and neighborhood groups have evidence to show the cruise ships pollute the surrounding air while the ship's engine idles at dock side. Shoreside power allows a ship to plug in to a permanent land-based power supply while docked, eliminating the need for the ship to run its auxiliary engines and burn diesel fuel to run the ship's equipment while it is tied up at the pier.
The SPA has made it clear that it has no plans to install shoreside power. The agency maintains that better technology is on the horizon, and it is waiting for this innovation.
But I am told that what the SPA's acceptable substitute to shoreside power is a "less dirty" fuel standard to clear the air when emissions are measured, nullifying the need for shore power.
But after new federal fuel standards are put in place, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a cruise ship idling in port will still produce sulfur dioxide air pollution equivalent to more than 34,000 idling diesel trucks.
An extensive study of the cruise operations in the city finds that shore power will substantially lower harmful air pollution even when cruise ships burn "less dirty" fuel as required by federal law.
Joined with staff from the medical establishment, I advocated to make the area in my District around the Medical University of South Carolina and Roper Hospital a "smoke free zone."
The use of shore power is another step in making the air quality for the residents a primary concern. Just as city council approved this clean air measure for the medical complex, council should continue this effort by supporting shore power for cruise ships to further protect the health of our residents.
While the emerging cruise ship industry in the city is an important and welcomed economic gain to the city's robust tourist sector, the environmental impact that cruise ship emissions pose to the health of our citizens is not a laughing matter but one that needs serious consideration.
A world-class city deserves world-class livability.
William Dudley Gregorie, who represents District 6 on Charleston City Council, is chairman of council's Sustainability Advisory Committee.