Yes, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Lines on a technicality.
The court said that since all members of the public suffer from congestion, pollution and noise associated with cruise ships, the plaintiff neighborhoods did not have standing to sue for individualized effects. Therefore, neighborhood associations near Union Pier, which bear the most direct effects, will not get their day in court.
The court said plaintiffs must allege that they suffer harm in a personal, individual way.
The basis for the lawsuit was far from frivolous given the seriousness of the issues, the fact that Judge Newman, appointed by the S.C. Supreme Court to hear motions in the case, had recommended that a majority of the counts proceed to trial, and the determination by the Supreme Court in its cruise ship opinion that "All members of the public suffer from and are inconvenienced by traffic congestion, pollution, noise and obstructed views."
On a positive note, neighborhood associations and preservation groups hopefully will have the opportunity to participate in the historic preservation impact study required by a federal judge to determine whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should issue permits at Union Pier for a new cruise ship terminal.
This study should include analysis of the full scope of impacts of cruise ship operations on the historic district and could explore alternatives to a cruise ship terminal at Union Pier.
Also on a positive note, our Charleston state representatives, recognizing the statutory obligation of the State Ports Authority to consider mitigation of the effects of new projects on the City of Charleston, have proposed state funding for shore power for cruise ships.
Wherever a cruise ship terminal may be located, shore power facilities would be a welcome feature to eliminate the current pollution and soot problems and the health issues emphasized by our county and state medical societies.
Other forward-looking port cities have improved the health and quality of life of residents by finding a way to offer shore power for cruise ships. Use of shore power could eliminate pollution as a consideration in analyzing the best location for a terminal.
We hope our City Council will request that shore power facilities for cruise ships be installed in Charleston.
Neighborhoods near Union Pier have been emphasizing for three years the need to mitigate the impacts of cruise ships on downtown Charleston by limiting the size and number of ships, offering shore power and exploring alternate locations.
A decade from now, there could be a vibrant new waterfront community at Union Pier or there could be a cruise ship terminal and massive parking lot, pressured to take many more visits by even larger cruise ships and significantly influencing the type of development that occurs around it.
Getting this wrong can significantly change the historic Charleston experience and the reason that so many land-based tourists come.
Steve Gates is president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association.