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SC court tosses challenge to Charleston cruises

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 22, 2014 at 2:26 pm •  Published: January 22, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's highest court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block cruise ship operations and plans to build a new $35 million terminal in Charleston, ruling that the environmental group and neighborhood associations who sued did not have legal standing to challenge the proposal.

Groups including the Preservation Society of Charleston and South Carolina Coastal Conservation League filed a lawsuit two years ago, saying that the cruises subject residents in Charleston's densely populated, historic downtown areas to nuisances including air pollution and traffic congestion.

There have been seasonal cruises from Charleston in years past. Things changed three years ago when Carnival permanently based its 2,000-passenger liner Fantasy in the city, creating a year-round cruise industry.

The city and the State Ports Authority intervened on behalf of Carnival and asked the Supreme Court to take original jurisdiction, saying the suit threatens the state's maritime commerce and is a matter of statewide public interest. A special court-appointed referee recommended that some claims, like the contention that the ships violate state pollution law, be dropped, leaving claims over whether the ships are a nuisance.

During oral arguments in November, attorneys for the State Ports Authority said that restricting the cruise ships that call year-round at Charleston could be detrimental to the future both of South Carolina's business climate and large-scale, downtown events. Environmental attorneys said that downtown residents are subjected to nuisances including air pollution, traffic congestion and obstructed views as a result of the ships' presence.

But the justices said the groups' arguments weren't specific enough, dismissing the case Wednesday based on a lack of standing and saying that the damages alleged by the groups that sued are too general to be dealt with by the court system.

"All members of the public suffer from and are inconvenienced by traffic congestion, pollution, noises, and obstructed views, and Plaintiffs have not alleged they suffer these harms in any personal, individual way," the court wrote. "Harms suffered by the public at large, like those Plaintiffs allege here, are to be remedied by the legislative and executive branches. If existing laws and regulations or their enforcement fail to protect the public from harm, it is incumbent upon the public to seek reform through their elected officials or failing that, at the ballot box."

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