Nearly eight years ago, the China Shipping expansion project was approved by the Port of Los Angeles. No project-specific environmental review was performed, no project-specific mitigation was adopted, no project impacts were evaluated. NRDC represented itself, the Coalition for Clean Air, and several homeowner groups in a suit against the Port, got an injunction stopping the project, and negotiated a precedent-setting settlement that dragged the Port into the 21st century in terms of environmental compliance.
Fast forward to today. The Port is now taking credit for many of the measures that NRDC and the other groups forced them to adopt. And on December 18, 2008, the Port approved a substantially different China Shipping project. The project now includes mitigation for emissions from ships, trucks, and yard equipment and is the subject of a multi-volume environmental study of the project's public health and environmental impacts. The changes in the project are attributable to the lawsuit NRDC won against the Port and its constant efforts to ensure that the environmental documents written to justify Port expansion projects pass legal muster.
Since 2002, NRDC and local community advocates have completely changed the mindset of the Port. A decade ago, the Port didn't acknowledge the toxic pollution it generated, let alone take responsibility for it. Today, the Port, through the China Shipping project, is requiring ships to use cleaner fuels, making significant investments to modernize its truck fleet, demanding that its tenants utilize alternative fueled cargo handling equipment, and requiring ships to use shoreside power.
Let's be frank: the China Shipping project as it stands is not perfect, and if the current efforts of the Federal Maritime Commission and American Trucking Association to kill the Port's Clean Trucks Program are successful, the project will need to again be reassessed. However, at least this much is clear: the China Shipping litigation will serve as a turning point in how the Port drafts future expansion projects because the Wild West days of unrestricted expansion are over.