Clean Air Showdown Roils Largest U.S. Port

A workshop today in San Pedro, Calif., will bring the governing boards of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles together with opponents who have vowed to go to court if necessary to stop the ports' proposed Clean Trucks Program, which aims to cut emissions by 80 percent within five years by giving drayage truck owners a port-sponsored subsidy to scrap and replace the oldest of about 16,000 trucks working at the ports and to retrofit 1994-2006 trucks. Trucks made in 2007 are 90 percent cleaner than older trucks, and the program would bar older models year by year until only trucks meeting the "clean truck" standard in the ports' Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) are admitted.

The combined ports are the largest in the United States and the top container port in the country. The Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, an affiliate of the American Trucking Associations that represents motor carrier operating in intermodal transportation, sent a letter Oct. 4 asking the Federal Maritime Commission to intervene to prevent the ports from implementing the program. IMCC said it "will seek corrective action in U.S. District Court and before the commission" if the ports approve and act to implement CAAP in its current form. The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association and the National Industrial Transportation League wrote a similar letter Sept. 26 calling CAAP an "ill-advised and unlawful proposal." Implementing CAAP would reduce port trucking competition, raise drayage rates by 80 percent, and force many small and medium-sized motor carriers out of business, IMC claims.

Today's workshop will be the first joint meeting of the ports' 10 commissioners since they approved CAAP last November. The Clean Trucks Program is a key component of CAAP. The commissioners will not vote today on whether to implement the truck program, and they have limited public comments today to two minutes per person.

"We remain committed to moving forward as quickly as we can to improve air quality," said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Mario Cordero. "Our Clean Trucks Program is a bold step forward. This is an extremely complex issue. We just want to make sure we're taking the right steps to minimize economic disruption while maximizing reductions in air pollution. We want to hear firsthand from the experts."

Representatives of the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, and International Warehouse Logistics Association will participate on two panels making presentations at today's workshop.

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