The Attractive Clean Trucks Plan

It was a beautiful day in most of Los Angeles yesterday.  I played hooky from work and drove out to the ballpark to see the Dodgers beat the Rockies 3-1.  Remarkably, Manny Ramirez stole a base!

Unremarkably, 26 miles away, LA’s ports are still plagued by killer diesel pollution.  After years of prodding by NRDC and others, the ports have enacted clean trucks plans that will cut truck-related diesel pollution by 50 percent on October 1, 2008, and by 80 percent over 5 years.

That is, unless the clean trucks plans are put on ice by a lawsuit filed recently by the American Trucking Association (ATA).  The ATA has asked the federal court to issue an injunction that would freeze the heart of the clean trucks plans -- the requirement that trucking companies or so-called independent owner-operators sign “concession agreements” with the ports, just as McDonald’s does in order to sell burgers at LAX.  The retail industry, represented by the National Retail Federation, has asked permission to file an amicus brief supporting the ATA.  NRDC, on behalf of itself, the Sierra Club, and the Coalition for Clean Air, has asked to intervene in the ATA lawsuit and has filed a brief opposing the ATA’s request for a preliminary injunction. 

The core of ATA’s injunction request is that its members will be irreparably injured by having to fill out some paperwork and commit to hiring employee drivers over a five year period.  Perhaps recognizing the irony of the logistics industry claiming that it can’t handle paperwork, ATA members Swift Transportation Company and Knight Transportation, Inc. have signed letters of intent to participate in the Port of Los Angeles Clean Trucks Program

The hearing on ATA’s preliminary injunction request will be held on September 8, 2008.  If NRDC and our colleagues are allowed into the case, I will argue our position in court.  Baseball analogies fail me here because what will happen in court isn’t a game or a sport -- this is about corporate profits versus public health.  I’ll post the outcome on the afternoon of September 8, with a link to the court’s written opinion if there is one.