Cruise lawsuits

Three lawsuits challenge expanded cruise operations in downtown Charleston:

Administrative Law Court

Judge tossed out lawsuit Friday, saying the opponents failed to show standing for challenge.

Status: Opponents have not decided if they will appeal the decision to a higher court.

S.C. Supreme Court

Panel dismissed the lawsuit claiming Carnival's operations are a nuisance to city residents. Ruling said opponents failed to show standings in the case.

Status: Case closed

U.S. District Court

Judge Richard Gergel ruled last year that the Army Corps of Engineers did not fully review the effects the new cruise terminal would have on the city's historic district. He ordered the Army Corps to redo the study with a more extensive review.

Status: Army Corps has not concluded new study.

A state judge has tossed out a lawsuit challenging the State Ports Authority's proposed new cruise terminal in downtown Charleston.

S.C. Administrative Law Judge Ralph Anderson III ruled Friday that the coalition of neighborhood associations, preservation organizations and conservationists lacked standing to challenge a state permit that allows work to begin on the $35 million project.

"Petitioners have made many allegations and conclusory statements, but have failed to set forth specific, admissible facts to support their allegations and statements," Anderson said in the ruling. Friday's ruling came roughly a month after Anderson issued sanctions against the coalition, ordering them to pay $9,300 to the State Ports Authority for legal fees.

Anderson sided with SPA's motion for sanctions and dismissal of the lawsuit. The maritime agency alleged in a court filing that the lawsuit was "frivolous, lacked any reasonable or defensible grounds of support, and was filed solely for the purpose of delay."

The SPA was supposed to have replaced its aging cruise terminal at the south end of Union Pier near the City Market with a new facility by mid-2012. The latest concept was unveiled in February 2010 but delayed by lawsuits.

In February 2013, project opponents asked the Administrative Law Court, which handles disputes involving state agencies, to review the approval of a permit from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control that allowed pile driving at the proposed terminal site.

Lawyers for the opponents of the proposed site have said the lawsuit was filed over claims that DHEC didn't extensively review the issue before issuing the permit. They alleged that the agency's decision violated the S.C. Coastal Zone Management Act and the Coastal Management Program.

Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, called Friday's decision by Anderson wrong.

"The fact that this suit could be tossed out for lack of standing is nonsensical and it is contradictory to the purpose of the appeal process," he said, referring to the challenge to the DHEC permit.

Blan Holman, managing attorney for the Charleston office of the Southern Environmental Law Center and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, agreed.

"The court went so far as to say that a citizen who lives next door to a pollution source and literally sees and tastes the diesel soot pollution has no right to defend herself and others from increased pollution," Holman said. "That is a shocking departure from existing law and would leave families completely at the mercy of big polluters."

Holman said his clients have not decided yet if they will appeal the decision to a higher court.

Erin Pabst, a spokeswoman for SPA, declined to comment about Friday's ruling.

This is the last of three lawsuits that have been filed to challenge expanded cruise operations in the downtown.

The S.C. Supreme Court earlier this year dismissed a lawsuit alleging Carnival Cruise Lines' operations are a nuisance to city residents.

In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel ruled last year that the Army Corps of Engineers didn't fully review the effects the SPA's cruise terminal project would have on the historic district. Gergel ordered the Corps to redo its study with a more extensive review. The Corps have not completed the new study.

Glenn Jeffries, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps, was not available for comment late Friday afternoon.

Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 or Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.