Environmental groups file suit against Long Beach over Port’s Clean Truck Program
2010-01-05 · By Editor
The Port of Long Beach is celebrating the achievements of the Clean Truck Program. But, in the background bickering continues between environmental groups, truckers and the officials.
A volley of press releases were issued January 4 from the NRDC and the ATA. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club spoke first announcing a lawsuit the groups are filing against the City of Long Beach to overturn a settlement between the Port and the American Truckers Association over the Clean Truck Program.
On October 19, 2009 Long Beach announced a settlement that ended litigation initiated by the ATA. According to the lawsuit filed by the NRDC and Sierra Club, the settlement agreement between the ATA and the Long Beach Harbor Commission could illegally reverse efforts to improve air quality in communities surrounding the Port of Long Beach.
“You can’t cut the public out of the conversation when you’re talking about the air they breathe and the health consequences they face,” said David Pettit, director of NRDC’s Southern California Clean Air Program. “This deal puts the wolf in charge of the henhouse — with a likely result of dirtier air for local communities.”
The new agreement gives the ATA authority to oversee future updates to the clean trucks program at the Port of Long Beach even if the Port is acting to protect public health and safety.
“The problems posed to blighted communities and the environment are far greater than the simple issue of tailpipe emissions that this settlement tries to cover,” Tom Politeo, spokesperson for the Sierra Club. “The superficial agreement is far more about a subsidy that buys shiny new trucks for the industry than of the reforms needed to establish environmental justice. It is protectionist to a floundering status quo at the cost of suffering residents, workers and the environment.”
The environmental groups allege that the agreement violates Long Beach Municipal Code and state law, which require public involvement and an environmental review. The NRDC lawsuit calls for a legally-required state environmental study of the agreement that includes public comment before it can move forward.
“ATA cannot comment on the NRDC’s lawsuit itself, because we have not seen it. But the legal issues that the NRDC raises in their press release have already been considered and rejected as baseless by the City of Long Beach,” said Clayton Boyce, ATA’s Press Secretary and Vice President for Public Affairs.
The ATA responded to the suit countering that the settlement agreement between the ATA and Long Beach did not make any change that would reduce the Port’s progress in cleaning the air. “The settlement agreement with the ATA gives the Port of Long Beach everything it needs, and everything it wanted, to continue banning older trucks,” Boyce said.
The ATA press release claims that “David Pettit, the NRDC and the Sierra Club intend to force the Port of Long Beach (and every other port in the nation) to ban independent owner operators in order to make all port drivers company employees who can be organized by the Teamsters.”
The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are serviced by roughly 17,000. Since 2008, the clean trucks program has worked to modernize port trucking and improve air quality in Long Beach and the surrounding area. So far, the program has reduced truck pollution by 80 percent, putting the clean air programs two years ahead of schedule, and retired about 8,000 older diesel trucks.
(Editor’s Note: Ryan ZumMallen is covering this story over at LBPost.com. Follow Ryan’s posts to stay up to date with the latest details.)