One week after President Obama appointed Commissioner Joseph E. Brennan as acting chair of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the DC agency charged with reviewing ocean-bound commerce has reversed its position on its lawsuit that sought to stop certain aspects of the Clean Truck initiatives underway at the Port of Los Angeles and neighboring Port of Long Beach. The FMC has requested dismissal of the case in a filing today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. If Judge Richard Leon grants the motion, the FMC’s court case against the Clean Trucks Program will be over.
“Protecting the public health is at the heart of the Clean Trucks Program, and it is paramount to all other concerns,” said David Pettit, Director of the Southern California Air Program for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “All Californians should appreciate that President Obama and a federal agency recognized our need to get these dirty trucks off of our roads once and for all. The only way to do that is to make well-capitalized companies – not low-wage workers – responsible for a new, clean-burning fleet.”
In April, Judge Leon refused to temporarily halt the public health programs after the FMC sought an injunction during the Bush Administration. The ruling stated the agency had failed to demonstrate the Clean Trucks Programs would cause irreparable harm to – or create anti-competitive conditions for – the goods movement industry. In seven months the Port of L.A. has banned thousands of dirty trucks, has put 4,500 clean-burning and alternative fuel vehicles into service and is ahead of schedule in its goal reduce diesel truck pollution by 80 percent. Independent economists have also pointed to the L.A. business model as a means to deliver $5 billion to the regional economy and its ability to create stronger safety and security enforcement.
As candidate for President, Barack Obama sent a letter to the mayors of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland urging them to support a comprehensive, sustainable policy that requires companies to take responsibility for fleet turnover and proper maintenance of green vehicles through the use of employee drivers. President Obama also last week nominated Richard A. Lidinsky Jr. to the Federal Maritime Commission, earning praise from the environmental, labor and community-backed Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports.
The Southern California Clean Trucks Programs still face an industry lawsuit by clean-air opponents at the Virginia-based American Trucking Association. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and the entire Democratic California delegation to Congress have each written to the FMC in support of the L.A. green-growth policy, along with Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.
“We’ve been breathing this dirty air for too long, and our local officials need the tools to do something about it before more kids get sicker, said Silvia Martinez, a Long Beach resident whose daughter suffers from chronic symptoms related to exposure to diesel toxins. “The ports must be able to hold this industry accountable to clean up the pollution it creates, because residents, drivers and taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay the price.”
Despite the trucking lobby’s legal challenge, environmentalists, residents and port drivers in other cities such as Oakland, Newark and Seattle have mounted a similar effort in their communities to enact a sustainable L.A.-style clean-up policy.
Last winter, the Coalition gathered over 10,000 emails and postcards from community members to Members of Congress representing pollution-affected regions surrounding California’s ports. They called on their elected leaders to help appoint new commissioners that share Barack Obama’s commitment to the environmentally and economically sound L.A. Clean Trucks Program.
“It’s clear that this Administration understands how industry pollution impacts those of us who live near the ports,” said Shirley Burnell, a grandmother who lives in West Oakland, where one in five children