A Clean Win For Clean Air

 Yesterday, United States District Judge Richard Leon denied the application of the Federal Maritime Commission ("FMC") for an injunction to put the Clean Trucks Plans of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on ice.  

I've blogged about the ill-advised FMC lawsuit here and my colleague Adrian Martinez has here.  In short, the FMC argued that the Clean Trucks Plans and their associated concession agreements were anti-competitive and violated federal shipping laws (why the FMC, which was set up to regulate ocean shipping, thinks it has jurisdiction over trucks is another story).  The FMC asked Judge Leon for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the ports' Clean Trucks Plans until the case went to trial. 

Judge Leon, like Judge Snyder in the American Trucking Association case against our local ports, found that the public interest in clean air and efficient movement of cargo outweighed the evidence of economic harm that was presented to the court.  Here is what he wrote - it's long, but worth reading: 

"First, it is important to note that the CTPs represent the judgment of the cities' elected and appointed officials based on multi-year deliberative processes that involved innumerable public meetings and the receipt and review of comments from a wide range of stakeholders. . . . The Ports' boards of harbor commissioners consequently determined that the Clean Truck Fee exemptions and funding mechanisms provide necessary relief for drayage industry participants in connection with the costs associated with transitioning to newer, cleaner trucks, as required by the rolling truck ban. . . .Without these provisions, the number of clean trucks currently serving the Ports will decrease and significantly fewer clean trucks will enter into service, thus reducing the environmental and health benefits gained to date and expected to be gained the future. . . . In addition, POLA's board of harbor commissioners determined that its employee mandate will promote enhanced efficiency in the provision of drayage services at its port, as well as better ensure compliance with its CTP requirements and enhance port security both by providing POLA with enhanced access control and by ensuring LMCs are accountable for their drivers. . . . Given the immediate impact enjoining these provisions could have on these aspects of the CTPs, the success of which are critical to addressing the significant air pollution in the area, the Court is not persuaded that they are outweighed by the speculative harm to the drayage market alleged by the FMC. 

"In addition, for many of the same reasons, the public interest also weighs in the defendants' favor. This case presents the unique situation wherein both parties are acting to protect the public interest. On the one hand, the defendants are implementing ambitious, multi-faceted programs to reduce high levels of air pollution while also striving to improve the Ports' safety and security and to enable future development. On the other, the FMC has a statutory responsibility to take prospective action to protect the public from anticompetitive agreements that it believes are likely to unreasonably raise rates and decrease services. See S. Rep. No. 105-61, at 14 (1997), available at 1997 WL 441767, at *14. Ultimately, the dispute at this juncture boils down to a request by the FMC that this Court bless its chosen policy determination over that of the defendants prior to a full briefing on the merits. Given the protracted and public deliberative process that led to the development of the CTPs and the responsibility the defendants have for improving the area's public health and managing the Ports' efficient operations, the Court finds that the public interest, at this point, favors denying the FMC's motion for a preliminary injunction." 

Judge Leon's language goes directly to two issues that Judge Snyder will address at the upcoming hearing on ATA's request for an injunction against the L.A. ports' concession plans:  the balance of hardships among the parties and the public interest.  It remains to be seen what effect Judge Leon's decision will have on the ATA lawsuit here in Los Angeles.  But what is clear is that a judge sitting 2,500 miles away from the LA ports understands the importance of clean air to the people who live right here.