Efforts to bring shoreside power to the proposed $35 million new passenger cruise terminal in downtown Charleston could be gaining political support.
Charleston City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution in support of adding shoreside capabilities to Union Pier Terminal.
The resolution is being introduced by Councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who has previously voiced support for efforts to improve air quality in the downtown area.
"I can't see anybody not voting for it," Gregorie said. "We have voted in support for solar power and have voted in support in wind and clean energy, and I don't see that much different with this."
Gregorie said the resolution will add support as state policymakers are deciding on the fate of the option.
"It's not a decision the city can make, but it can go a long way when there is debate among legislators when they see the city has passed a resolution in support of shore power," Gregorie said.
The proposed resolution comes a month after state Reps. Jim Merrill and Leon Stavrinakis announced plans to seek authorization of up to $5 million to install the necessary equipment at the State Ports Authority passenger terminal at Union Pier.
Merrill, R-Charleston, and Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, both serve on the House Ways and Means Committee. They said Tuesday that the committee approved the funds, meaning it will be included in the proposed budget that will be sent to the house for a vote.
"We want to move the ball forward and have it as an option for those who have it," Merrill said. "I don't think we want to put our port at a competitive disadvantage with a mandate that the other ports we compete with don't require."
Gregorie's proposed resolution stands to get strong support amid some council members, including Robert M. Mitchell, who said "we need shore power as a way to sooth problems for some of the people downtown."
He said the city usually follow's the state's direction.
"It should go through," Mitchell said. "I don't know how other council members look at it, but we will have to make sure the wordings are correct and we have to look at it to make sure it's corresponding with what the state is doing." Shoreside power has been mentioned as one way to bring together the feuding sides in a long-running dispute about the future of the cruise industry in Charleston.
Environmentalists and neighborhood groups have complained about pollution in the historic district coming from cruise ships idling their engines at Union Pier. Most complaints target the Carnival Fantasy, which is based in the city year round.
Those groups were pleased that Gregorie is proposing the resolution.
"We're delighted that Councilman Gregorie is introducing it, and it will be interesting to see how debate goes because there shouldn't be any," said Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League. "There is no logical position to take against shoreside power, and it's the only way to truly protect the health. There is no other technology to do that."
Last year, his Charleston-based group released a study that concluded hooking a cruise ship to shoreside power source would cut toxic emissions by 19 percent to 90 percent, depending on the type of fuel the vessel burns.
The SPA has applauded efforts by Merrill and Stavrinakis, but the maritime agency has not supported shoreside power capabilities.
"While we understand that shoreside power has been the focus of conversations to date, the industry is also pursuing other more modern technologies that provide equal or greater benefit," spokeswoman Erin Pabst said in a written statement. "We anticipate utilizing the industry's most modern and efficient technologies at the new passenger terminal at Union Pier. We understand that council is appreciative of their efforts as well."
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, a key supporter of SPA and its plans for a new cruise terminal, did not respond to phone calls seeking comment about the resolution.
The SPA has reviewed shoreside power while planning the new cruise terminal it wants to open at the north end of Union Pier. It concluded it was too costly.
In 2011, the SPA estimated it would have invest $5.6 million, and that Carnival Cruise Lines would have to spend about another $1.5 million to retrofit the Fantasy.
Plans for the new cruise terminal have been stalled by lawsuits challenging extended cruise operations in the city.
In addition to pushing for shoreside power, groups like Charleston Communities for Cruise Control and the Coastal Conservation League have argued for limits on ship visits and passengers.
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