Monday, March 23, 2009

Court backs LA/Long Beach truckers on clean air oversight

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In a victory for the American Trucking Associations, the U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit has ruled that several provisions of California’s clean-truck program, aimed to reduce pollution at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, cannot supersede federal law. The Court of Appeals said the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles had erred by not granting ATA’s request last summer for a preliminary injunction; the Appeals Court remanded the issue back to the District Court “for an appropriate preliminary injunction.”

California has sought to enforce numerous environmental restrictions that are more strict than federal mandates. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the top two busiest ports in the U.S., have worked to reduce air pollution generated by all modes, including rail. The clean-truck portion of the ports program seeks to reduce truck-generated pollution by 80% in a five-year period.

The trucking industry says it supports the ports’ overall goal, but objects to requirements placed by the Port of Los Angeles that harbor trucking companies must replace one-fifth of their owner-operator drivers with employee drivers by year’s end. "That requirement is dead," Curtis Whalen, executive director of the ATA's intermodal conference, said. "We are very pleased with this decision."

The clean-truck program also requires that motor carriers sign concession agreements with the ports that govern many aspects of their operations, but the Court of Appeals said some of the requirements amount to state or local regulation of interstate trucking, regulated by federal law.

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