There is one good way to tackle unhealthy particulate emissions spewing from cruise ships idling at dock: plug-in shore power.
Charleston citizens and local and state medical groups have been asking for it, but a majority of Charleston City Council and the leadership of the S.C. State Ports Authority have shown no interest.
Until, that is, Reps. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, and Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, recently announced that they would ask the Legislature to fund the installation of shore power at the new passenger terminal in Charleston.
Soon after, City Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who has pushed for shore power to no avail, wrote on our Tuesday Commentary page that he will ask council to pass a resolution in support of it. His plan was to begin by asking for the backing of the city's Sustainability Advisory Committee at its Feb. 11 meeting.
Except that the committee meeting has been canceled.
Mr. Gregorie doesn't know who made that decision or why. No one asked him, and he is the chairman.
Mr. Gregorie said he would move forward anyway and take his resolution to City Council on Feb. 25.
It seems his won't be the only resolution on the table. Another resolution pledges support to the Legislature and the SPA for efforts to reduce air emissions. Both resolutions appear to acknowledge that air emissions from cruise ships are a problem worth combatting.
But only Mr. Gregorie's specifies shore power, the most effective method used in more and more ports around the globe so that cruise ships, which keep an engine running the entire time they are at dock, can do so without burning diesel fuel and emitting significant air pollution.
Councilman Mike Seekings will support Mr. Gregorie's resolution, not just for health reasons but for economic reasons.
As Mr. Seekings asks, why build a new facility and use outdated technology in it? Besides, he said, SCE&G will have to add a substation when the land is developed where the present passenger terminal is situated. And shore power would mean new business for SCE&G.
Still, Councilmen Aubry Alexander and Dean Reigel have already said they support the other resolution.
The SPA has said federal regulations are soon to be enforced that will reduce emissions by requiring ships to burn cleaner fuel. But even with cleaner fuel, shore power reduces particulate soot by 34 percent, and nitrogen oxide by 97 percent.
In an attempt to avoid the expense of mandated cleaner fuel, Carnival Cruise Lines, owner of the Fantasy, which is home-ported here, plans to install on some ships scrubbers that would reduce emissions from the dirtier fuel they would continue to use.
But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency anticipates scrubbers will not reduce nitrogen oxides - and is uncertain if they would have any impact on particulate soot, both of which are associated with heart and lung disease and cancer.
The question remains: Mitigate an unhealthy situation only as much as is required or as much as is possible?
Some people are wondering if canceling Mr. Gregorie's committee meeting was a way to prevent his resolution from gaining momentum. Clearly it has credibility. Other ports have done their research and installed shore power as best practice for dealing with emissions. Usually they have done so in partnership with cruise lines and power companies.
It's puzzling to think local authorities would want less for this area.
Certainly the people of South Carolina have been enthusiastic supporters of the port, which enhances the state's economy.
So it's curious that the SPA, in planning a new $35 million passenger terminal, wouldn't plan for shore power as part of the design.
City Council should seize this opportunity to serve those who visit, live or work in Charleston by supporting shore power for cruise ships.