Lawsuits traded over clean port truck plan

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club are locking horns with the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) over the Port of Long Beach’s “clean truck plan” to phase out older models of commercial vehicles in favor of 2010 emission-compliant units or ones that run on natural gas

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club are locking horns with the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) over the Port of Long Beach’s “clean truck plan” to phase out older models of commercial vehicles in favor of 2010 emission-compliant units or ones that run on natural gas.

The NRDC and Sierra Club filed suit this week to overturn a settlement agreed to by the ATA and the Long Beach Harbor Commission on Oct. 19. That settlement came after the U.S. District Court of Appeals nullified parts of the port’s clean truck plan due to its impact on motor carrier rates, routes and services, thus falling within the federal pre-emption provision.

Both the NRDC and Sierra Club characterized the settlement as a “backroom agreement” that would reverse efforts to improve air quality in communities surrounding the Port of Long Beach.

“This deal puts the wolf in charge of the henhouse - with a likely result of dirtier air for local communities,” said David Pettit, director of NRDC's Southern California Clean Air Program.
“Industry cannot be allowed to dictate clean air efforts and roll back the Port's clean air advancements.”

ATA, however, denounced the charges leveled by the two environment groups. “The legal issues [raised] … have already been considered and rejected as baseless by the City of Long Beach,” said Clayton Boyce, ATA vp-public affairs. “The settlement agreement between the ATA and Long Beach did not make any change that would reduce, let alone reverse, the port's progress in cleaning the air.”

What the settlement does not do – and the reason why Boyce said ATA filed a lawsuit against the Port of Long Beach’s plan in July 2008 in the first place – is ban independent owner-operators from working at the port.

“What is cleaning the air, said Boyce, “is the progressive banning of older trucks. The settlement agreement with the ATA gives the Port of Long Beach everything it needs, and everything it wanted, to continue banning older trucks. The port has the control. If the truck does not meet the requirements, the Port of Long Beach will not let it in the gate. The NRDC is lashing out in anger at the Port of Long Beach because it refused to ban owner-operators.”

The Port of Long Beach and its sister facility the Port of Los Angeles are serviced by roughly 17,000 trucks. The clean truck plans at both ports to date reportedly have retired nearly 8,000 older models, reducing truck pollution by 80% and putting the ports' clean air programs two years ahead of schedule.

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