Court Ruling: Los Angeles Clean Truck Program Legally Sound

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jessica Lass, NRDC, 310-434-2317,
or jlass@nrdc.org

Court Ruling: Los Angeles Clean Truck Program Legally Sound

Industry Attacks to Derail Clean Air Program Defeated; Port Programs Nationwide Given Greenlight

LOS ANGELES - The U.S. District Court upheld the legality of the Port of Los
Angeles’ Clean Truck Program yesterday, which the Natural Resources
Defense Council (NRDC) intervened on behalf of itself, the Sierra Club
and Coalition for Clean Air to protect. The ruling enforces key safety
elements and protects core aspects of the program allowing the port to
require trucking companies to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining
their own truck fleet rather than leaving the burden on the underpaid
drivers.

“This victory bolsters the standing of burgeoning clean port
programs across the nation,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney
with NRDC’s Southern California Air Program. “Millions of people live in
port communities across the country and are forced to subsidize the
operations of outdated port operations with their lungs. This decision
allows the Port of Los Angeles to continue introducing cleaner trucks
while getting dirty ones off the road and sets the stage for healthier
communities nationwide.”

A recent report
from the American Lung Association found that the port communities of
Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to rank the worst in the country for
ozone (smog) and particulate matter exposure, two air pollutants
generated by diesel trucks. 

“It’s essential we sustain the clean air achievements of LA’s
clean truck program,” said David Pettit, senior attorney and director
of NRDC’s Southern California Air Program. “Without regular truck
maintenance, the region will be back at square one in terms of air
pollution attributed to diesel trucks and port residents can’t afford
that.”

The Clean Truck Program is designed to significantly reduce
truck-related emissions and to manage and maintain these trucks for the
long-term. Ports around the country recognize the need for a sustainable
trucking workforce and are mobilizing to implement clean truck programs
locally. Today’s decision stems from litigation brought in July 2008 by
the American Trucking Associations (ATA) against the ports of Los
Angeles and Long Beach.

Background

Since October 1, 2008, the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program
has significantly reduced air pollution at the ports and in communities
along freight transportation corridors by nearly 80 percent, a goal the
Port of Los Angeles planned to achieve by 2012.

Los Angeles’s Clean Truck Program is part of a larger Clean
Air Action Plan (CAAP) adopted in 2006 to clean up diesel pollution from
Port-serving trucks, ships, trains, tug boats and other equipment. The
CAAP seeks to expand the ports’ business operations and also reduce
harmful air pollution impacts on the local port community and
environment. The trucking fleet was included in the CAAP because the
“independent owner-operator” trucking system that had evolved after
trucking was deregulated in the 1990’s resulted in a fleet of nearly
17,000 dirty trucks serving the ports. 

To fix this problem, the Port enacted a “concession” program
that made the trucking companies (licensed motor carriers) responsible
for truck maintenance through adherence to provisions within a
concession agreement.  An estimated $1.6 billion has been invested to
replace an aging truck fleet with newer, cleaner vehicles at the ports
of Los Angeles and Long Beach before 2012. The Port of Los Angeles put
up millions of dollars in incentives to help trucking companies
transition to clean trucks. Many trucking companies at the port took
advantage of these incentives, but the ATA filed suit, claiming that the
concession agreement that is the heart of the Clean Truck Program
violates federal law. 

The ATA tried, but failed, to have provisions within the
port’s concession agreement thrown out on legal grounds under the
Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which restricts, in
some circumstances, local governments from regulating the prices, routes
or services of trucking companies.  ATA also brought, and lost, a claim
under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.

Legislation introduced last month by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler
(D-NY) entitled the Clean Ports Act 2010, seeks to reduce truck-borne
pollution in and around our nation’s shipping ports. The federal
legislation will protect port authority to implement clean truck
programs across the country, and safeguard the results of Judge Snyder’s
ruling.

In addition to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Port of Oakland have
adopted clean truck programs designed to phase out the dirtiest diesel
trucks. Mayors Michael Bloomberg (NY), Cory Booker (Newark), Ron Dellums
(Oakland), Mike McGinn (Seattle) and Stacy Ritter (Broward County, FL)
seek to emulate Los Angeles’s comprehensive strategy as part of their
efforts to create green jobs, protect public health and spur economic
development.

Relevant Links:

4/29/2009 - SoCal Ports’ Clean Truck Plans Overcome Court Challenge

Read David Pettit’s blog on port air pollution: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/dpettit/ 

Read Melissa Lin Perrella’s blog at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/mlinperrella/ 

 

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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