Judge allows Los Angeles Ports' clean trucks to roll on

WASHINGTON, DC, April 16, 2009 (ENS) – A federal judge in Washington Wednesday upheld the Clean Truck Program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, calling it an “ambitious, multi-faceted program to reduce high levels of air pollution while also striving to improve the Ports’ safety and security.”

In his ruling, Judge Richard Leon rejected the request by the Federal Maritime Commission for a preliminary injunction against the ports. He called the commission’s arguments “weak” and said they “suffer from critical flaws.”

Judge Leon concluded that the commission failed to prove that that the Clean Truck Program reduced competition or caused irreparable economic harm. He found that the commission’s arguments were “wholly unsupported in the record.”

The Clean Truck Program is designed to phase out 17,000 big rigs that spew clouds of diesel exhaust into the air as they move freight to and from the ports and rail terminals.

A clean truck enters the Port of Long Beach (Photo courtesy Port of Long Beach)

The Federal Maritime Commission filed suit in October 2008, claiming that small trucking firms and independent drivers will be driven out of the market by the Clean Truck Program rules.

“This is a clear victory for our Clean Truck Program and the idea that you can both green and grow the Port of Los Angeles at the same time,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“We have already removed thousands of polluting port trucks from service and today’s victory helps clear the path for more progress,” said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Some provisions of the Clean Truck Program unrelated to environmental concerns were declared unconstitutional last month by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a legal action brought by the American Trucking Assocation, a nonprofit industry association. A further ruling is expected in that case on April 27.

The Clean Truck Program is a comprehensive environmental, safety and security initiative. On its launch date, October 1, 2008, the program immediately banned trucks built before 1989 from hauling cargo in and out of the two ports.

The Port of Los Angeles is paying out $44 million in $20,000-per-truck incentives for trucks enrolled in the program and put into service by January 15, 2009.

The two ports began collecting a $35-per-container fee for the Clean Truck Program on February 18. The fee is expected to raise funds over the next few years to help finance the replacement of thousands of old, polluting trucks.

Under the program, the cargo owner is responsible for paying the Clean Truck Fee. The fee is payable by credit card or electronic funds transfer, and must be paid before a container can enter or leave a terminal.

Collection of the Clean Truck Fee was scheduled to begin in November, but was delayed twice due to extended Federal Maritime Commission review.

By 2012, the ports will ban all trucks that do not meet 2007 U.S. EPA emission standards. The combined Clean Truck initiatives at the nation’s two largest container ports are expected to reduce port-related truck emissions by more than 80 percent from current levels.

The Clean Truck Program is the centerpiece of the Mayor Villaraigosa’s Clean Air Action Plan adopted in November 2006 that targets the five leading causes of pollution at the ports – ships, trains, trucks, cargo handling equipment and harbor craft. The Mayor’s Office says that more than 1,200 people in Southern California die prematurely every year because of port-related air pollution.

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