Thursday, April 16, 2009

LA/Long Beach “clean truck” program clears one hurdle

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A federal judge in Washington has upheld efforts by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s two largest ports, to pursue its clean-truck program designed to reduce emissions in the Los Angeles basin.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon denied a preliminary injunction sought by the Federal Maritime Commission, saying regulators held "weak" arguments that the program threatens to cause irreparable harm or to unreasonablyincrease shipping costs. FMC filed suit last fall, alleging that small trucking firms and independent drivers will be driven out of the market by the new rules.

Last month, key provisions of the clean-trucks program were declared unconstitutional by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, backing contentions of unfairness submitted by the American Trucking Associations. A ruling is expected April 27 in that case.

"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," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, referring to Judge Leon’s ruling.

The twin ports, which handle roughly two out of every five international containers moving to and from the U.S., have on-dock ship-to-rail capabilities, but considerable “near-dock” traffic remains, with trucks shuttling containers or trailers between ships and rail facilities.

The clean-truck program charges a $35-per-container fee to generate funds for dealing with environmental and health impacts attributed to truck diesel emissions, offering a sliding scale of reductions and exemptions for trucks that meet clean-air standards.