Environmental agency attorney: Judge right to uphold permit for Charleston cruise terminal

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina — The attorney for South Carolina's environmental agency says a state judge was correct in upholding an agency permit for a $35 million cruise terminal in Charleston.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control approved the permit in 2012 and a state administrative law judge upheld it last year.

Opponents of the terminal, including preservation, conservation and neighborhood groups, have appealed to the state Court of Appeals. DHEC attorneys filed their response in the contentious case earlier this week.

The South Carolina Ports Authority wants to replace its aging terminal with a new one built by renovating an old waterfront warehouse now that Carnival Cruise Lines has based its 2,056-passenger liner Fantasy in the city.

The DHEC permit allows placing five additional clusters of pilings in the water beneath the warehouse where there are now 1,008 pile clusters.

Opponents say the new terminal will mean more pollution and will affect property values and quality of life in historic Charleston. But State Administrative Law Judge Ralph K. Anderson ruled last April the opponents lack legal standing to challenge the permit.

Bradley Churdar, DHEC's chief counsel, agrees.

He wrote in the documents filed this week that the judge ruled correctly because terminal opponents "failed to establish any genuine issue of material fact regarding their standing to challenge."

Anderson, in his ruling, wrote that while terminal opponents mentioned negative impacts from the terminal they "failed to set forth specific, admissible facts to support their allegations and statements."

The arguments in the DHEC documents filed this week are similar to those made last month by attorneys for the South Carolina Ports Authority in their court papers.

The terminal, proposed almost five years ago, has been the subject of lawsuits in both state and federal courts.

A federal permit for the terminal was tossed out in 2013 when a judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considered only the impact of pilings in the water and not the impact of the terminal on the historic district.

The Corps has said its review for the federal permit will now be more extensive than when the agency first approved the project almost three years ago.

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