Last Wednesday, International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa announced at a conference in Oakland, CA, that the Teamsters were withdrawing from the coalition supporting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This was a stunning development, especially given the media hoopla that followed the formation of the alliance seven years ago.
Also remarkable was the context for President Hoffa’s announcement – a nationwide conference of environmental, labor, community, faith-based and health advocates working on port pollution issues. This “blue-green” alliance is working together out of a common interest to fix the public health problems caused by diesel pollution produced by U.S. ports. Momentum is growing following the enactment in Los Angeles of the first clean trucks plan in the world.
NRDC and other members of the alliance are working to take this victory on the road to New York/Newark, Oakland, Seattle, Houston, and other U.S. ports. The coalition is still trying to work with the Port of Long Beach – L.A.’s neighbor port, to enact a clean truck plan that actually has a chance of success instead of creating a financial burden for the low-income drivers driving the big rigs. These guys are trying to support a family on less than $30,000 and under Long Beach’s plan are also expected to foot 20 percent of the bill for a $125,000+ new truck, and help pay for maintenance. L.A. set up their plan to make sure the drivers never have to pay a dime.
One day before the conference, at a rally in Oakland with Los Angeles Mayor Villagraigosa at his side, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums announced that Oakland would be the next port to enact a clean trucks program modeled on the Los Angeles plan. The L.A. plan puts the financial burden of new, clean trucks on real trucking companies with employee drivers, not on the drivers themselves. Industry’s reaction, predictably, will be litigation, and NRDC will be there to help defend the L.A. plan.
President Hoffa recognized in his address that the problems we face from global warming are real and need to be dealt with today. Port trucking plans that get old, dirty, inefficient trucks off the road will help in that fight. Ineffective plans that put an impossible burden on drivers won’t. Mayors Villaraigosa and Dellums know this. Speaker Pelosi and the 31 members of Congress who signed a letter to the Federal Maritime Commission in favor of the Los Angeles plan know this. The members of the blue-green alliance who met in Oakland know this. Our job now is to defend the L.A. plan and carry its message nationwide.