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David Pettit’s Blog

Run, Run Away

David Pettit

Posted October 19, 2009 in Curbing Pollution

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Today the Port of Long Beach violated the public trust and sold out the citizens of Long Beach by approving a worthless settlement agreement with the American Trucking Association ("ATA") in ATA's lawsuit against the Los Angeles ports' clean trucks programs.  Rather than clean up the trucks that serve its port, Long Beach ran away from a fight with ATA - an organization that has opposed clean air regulation locally and nationally - and is content to sit on the sidelines while the Port of Los Angeles pays to clean up the trucks that serve both ports.  

It is unheard of, and illegal, for a governmental entity to give away its police powers - its basic powers to protect its residents against harm - but that is just what Long Beach has done when it comes to the port-serving trucks that drive through the streets of the city.  The settlement agreement allows licensed motor carriers ("LMCs") to sign a piece of paper saying that their trucks are safe and sound; the trucks can then enter the Port.  If there is a dispute about whether what the LMC told the Port is correct, the dispute is resolved by a Port bureaucrat who is employed by the same Harbor Commission that signed the settlement agreement.  That staffer can only suspend an LMC if a misstatement is "knowing," and even then only for a maximum of 30 days, or one year for "a pattern of repeated knowing and intentional conduct."  

Contrast this laughable disciplinary system with the severe health effects that port trucking has caused in the nearby communities:  greatly elevated risks of cancer, asthma and other cardio-respiratory diseases, over 1,000 premature deaths per year, and untold millions of dollars lost to medical visits that could easily be avoided.  

Contrast it also with the strong stance taken today by Mayor Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Booker of Newark, who urged Congress to increase the ability of their ports, and all ports in the country, to protect their residents from the dangers of air pollution.  Long Beach Mayor Foster should be ashamed to be in the same room with these public officials - or with Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, whose vision and courage have led the Port of Los Angeles to be the most advanced in the world in making itself green. 

NRDC looks forward to fighting for clean air in a city with the worst air pollution problems in the country. Fights to clean up air pollution cannot be won overnight, but require long-term, sustainable solutions, solutions that the Port of Los Angeles has embraced.  Long Beach has failed to take this lesson to heart and continues to disappoint its community and the lungs of those living in the LA region, today and for years to come.

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Comments

Julian DelGaudioOct 21 2009 03:08 PM

I agree that what the Long Beach Harbor Commission did is an outrage. At this date and time it is laughable that we are being told to rely on the "magic of the marketplace" to solve the problems of pollution, congestion, and low paid truckers thanks to the operation of the Port. The ATA's use of free market rhetoric ignores the fact that it was the unregulated market that gave us these horrid conditions in the first place. There needs to be an investigation of the Mayor of Long Beach and the Harbor Commission. Is it the case that the Commission acted at the behest of the Mayor, as is implied in the LB Press Telegram coverage yesterday? Was the Harbor Commission's action a unanimous vote? We need to insist that the Port make public all documents related to its decision so that the public can come to understand the exact meaning of the Commission's actions. Then we can assess whether the public trust has been betrayed or not.

E MOct 21 2009 03:41 PM

Really?
Shippers are selecting carriers that are environmentally conscious and efficient. As a major shipper in the region, I ONLY use providers operating clean (2007 or newer) trucks. The carriers operating in the ports of LA/LB have reduced emissions by 80% -- well ahead of their commitment to hit this goal by 2012. The free market practice does work, and has worked. Was there delay in the adoption of good programs? Probably. Are shippers and carriers on board now, and working quickly to clean things up? Absolutely! In fact, the actions of the city of Long Beach open the doors for better, faster actions on behalf of the environment. The same is happening in the Ports of Seattle/Tacoma--on a VOLUNTEER basis! It's wonderful for business and the environment.
What is really, truly happening in LA/LB, is that unions (and the liberals that support them) see an opportunity to gain a foothold by enjoining themselves the the environmental movement. They want to organize independent businessmen and women in the name of 'cleaning up the streets".
The political pollution in S. California is far more extreme and hazardous to the livelihood of residents of LA/LB than the remaining environmental hazards.
I encourage LA/LB to adopt the Seattle/Tacoma model...it keeps capitalism alive and well, and allows us all to breathe easier.

RDSOct 23 2009 02:19 PM

A message from Richard D. Steinke, Executive Director of Port of Long Beach

The recent settlement of a legal challenge to the Port of Long Beach's Clean Trucks Program is good news, not only for the Port, but also for the cause of clean air. Why? Because the lawsuit was a potential roadblock. The settlement, however, clears the way for the Port and the trucking industry to move forward, together, with a program that has been highly successful in reducing air pollution.

The settlement reached earlier this week comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of the Clean Trucks Program. In its first 12 months, the program has achieved a reduction of air pollution far beyond what was expected by this point.

In an industry where harbor drayage trucks are kept in service for decades, the Clean Trucks Program has already put more than 5,000 new, clean trucks into port service. These big-rigs, which meet the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s strict 2007 emissions standards, are doing more than half of the truck hauling at the Port of Long Beach.

With the settlement of the lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations, the Port is more determined than ever to pursue and achieve the goals of the Clean Trucks Program.

Yet, we’re facing criticism from one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which says we’re abandoning our environmental goals by settling this lawsuit. That is simply false.

In fact, our environmental goals are being achieved much faster than expected. By January 1, 2010, the program will be nearly two years ahead of schedule in reducing truck air pollution by almost 80 percent. The NRDC said as much less than a month ago, in a news release praising the program for getting dirty trucks off the road.

The new system, agreed to by the ATA in the settlement, simplifies and streamlines our already successful Clean Trucks Program. It requires trucking companies to submit the same detailed information and enter into a binding contract to comply with all environmental, safety and security requirements in order to obtain access to Port terminals. Under the new registration system, trucking firms still will be required to register their trucks and equip them with electronic devices so we can verify that only clean trucks that meet our tough standards are entering our shipping terminals.

The NRDC’s real objection to our program has nothing to do with clean air. By aligning itself with the Teamsters, who have been very public about their campaign to unionize port truckers nationwide, the NRDC is pursuing an agenda beyond air quality.

Now, as before, our top priority is achieving cleaner air. But we’re determined to do it in a way that does not compromise the trucking industry’s ability to move cargo. By allowing both employee drivers and independent owner-operators in our program, we’re letting the industry determine how it can best achieve our environmental standards.

We don’t have any objection to employee drivers. In crafting the program, we simply decided to give the industry a choice. Under our plan, both larger firms and small business owners have the right to operate.

We can accept differences of opinion on that issue – but we won’t accept the NRDC’s false criticism that the ATA settlement is somehow compromising our environmental goals.

The program is working – well ahead of schedule. The settlement allows us to keep cleaning the air, and removes the last of the legal challenges to this very important tool for reducing air pollution.

We believe we have created a strong, sustainable model that has brought and will continue to bring clean trucks into port drayage.

Our goal with the Clean Trucks Program was to dramatically reduce the smog-forming and diesel particulate air pollution from port-related trucking. We’ve done that, and the settlement assures that we can continue to improve air quality while allowing cargo to keep moving as the air gets cleaner.

Lee S.Oct 27 2009 10:09 AM

Long Beach Press Telegram Editorial

Clean trucks and hot air
Is the Port of Long Beach dodging diesel pollution issue? Exactly the opposite.
Posted: 10/26/2009 11:38:48 PM PDT

When the Port of Long Beach made peace with the trucking association last week, it was a victory for clean air. Why, then, did a local environmental group go on the attack?

Simple. The group, which calls itself the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports, is fronting for the Teamsters Union, which wants to make the port trucking businesses easy prey.

(see full editorial.)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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