Truckers Seek Review of Ruling in SoCal Ports Clean Air Case

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:18 PM EDT
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Truckers Seek Review of Ruling in SoCal Ports Clean Air Case

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LOS ANGELES, California, September 10, 2008 (ENS) - The Clean Truck Program for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has survived a legal challenge by the American Trucking Associations. This federation of motor carriers, state trucking associations, and national trucking conferences had challenged a provision of the program that provides the ports with greater oversight over the trucks coming onto their property.

The ports, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Coalition for Clean Air argued that truckers need to sign contracts with the ports agreeing to proper and timely maintenance of trucks entering port property.

In a ruling issued late Tuesday U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder agreed. The decision was based on a hearing Monday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Calling the ruling an important clean air victory, David Pettit, NRDC senior attorney, said, “It is not enough to replace old dirty trucks with new dirty trucks, but that's what will happen if the new trucks aren't maintained adequately. We need to ensure that the clean air gains from the ports' clean trucks programs remain over the long haul."

"The judge's ruling supports properly maintained, well-managed goods movement at the ports, which is good for business and good for the health of people living in ports communities," Pettit said.

But the American Trucking Associations said today it will seek immediate review of Judge Snyder's denial of ATA's request for a preliminary injunction against the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to halt implementation of their concession agreements.

ATA attorney Robert Digges Jr. told the court that ATA opposes the concession agreements but supports the Ports Clean Truck Programs, including the phased retirement of older trucks from the port operations and their replacement with newer, cleaner vehicles.

The port concession agreements that ATA opposes are not needed to meet the ports' environmental goals, Digges argued.

Digges says the judge acknowledged that the ATA would likely succeed on the argument that the Ports' Clean Truck Programs are preempted by federal law.

The judge also determined that the ports' argument that they are sovereign tidelands was without support. However, the judge sided with the ports based on the security aspects of the ports' plans.

In June, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed into law the Clean Truck Program, requiring all 16,000 diesel trucks at the ports to meet some of the toughest environmental standards in the nation.

The law is designed to reduce the numbers of premature deaths caused by inhaling the air pollution from port activities. Every year 2,400 premature deaths statewide and 1,200 in the South Coast Basin are caused by port-related pollution, according to the California Air Resources Board.

ATA said in a statement today that it is in full support of the ports' environmental and security goals and supports the October 1, 2008 implementation of the elements of the Clean Truck Program necessary to address those goals, including the ban of pre-1989 trucks and the clean truck fee.

But the ATA said the ports are not prepared to put in place the systems needed to collect the ports' clean truck fee and administer the ban on pre-1989 trucks by the October 1 program startup date.

In a detailed letter to the ports, the secretary of the Marine Terminal Operators noted that the ports' have failed to develop and populate the Drayage Truck Registry, which will provide the individual truck data necessary to administer the program.

The Terminal Operators warned the ports that attempting to implement the program "without adequate preparation, testing and outreach could result in long truck lines at terminal gates, decreased productivity, and dissatisfaction among truckers, ocean carriers, and the shipping public."

To avoid these problems the Marine Terminal Operators suggested that collection of the clean truck fee be postponed until January 1, 2009, and that the ban of pre-1989 trucks be delayed until at least November 1, 2009, and begun then only if the Drayage Truck Registry is in place.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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