The Federal Maritime Commission Does the Right Thing

On June 13, 2008, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) wrote to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and stated that the FMC would “allow the early effectiveness” of the Ports’ agreement that authorized the Ports to cooperate in their Clean Trucks Programs.  The FMC concluded that:  “there was no basis at this time to determine that the Agreement is likely to result in an unreasonable increase in transportation costs or decrease in services.”  In other words, the FMC has refused the trucking industry’s request to shut down the Ports Clean Trucks Programs. 

Here’s the background to this letter.  The trucking industry formally asked the FMC to block implementation of the clean truck programs enacted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.  The FMC sent an onerous list of questions to both ports, which the ports responded to.  Recently, FMC Commissioner Harold Creel was quoted as saying:

“So it would seem fairly clear from the divergent approaches taken by the two Harbor Boards that, although there may be strong agreement on the health benefits of their common environmental goals and emissions standards, the ‘employee mandate’ remains somewhat problematic.”  These were encouraging words for the trucking industry, which had hoped to use the FMC as a tool to delay implementation of both Ports’ clean trucks programs. 

Last week, 31 Members of Congress from Southern California penned a letter to the Federal Maritime Commission to support the LA Clean Trucks Program.  The letter begins:

“We are writing to express our support for the Clean Trucks Program, a groundbreaking green growth initiative approved by the Port of Los Angeles on March 20, 2008.  This program will produce sustainable environmental and public health improvements, enhance the efficiency and productivity of port trucking, and reduce congestion, while appropriately placing the financial responsibility for operating and maintaining a fleet of clean trucks on the trucking companies that negotiate haul rates instead of on the truck drivers who are trying to make ends meet.  For these reasons, we are encouraging the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to give this important clean-air proposal full and fair consideration as it moves towards implementation."

The Representatives went on to say: 

 “The LA Clean Trucks program will actually strengthen competition within the port trucking industry as well as between port trucking and their retail clients.  Since port trucking costs are a relatively small component of overall transportation costs, the increased operational costs required by this program will be far outweighed by the overwhelming public benefits.”

“As the FMC moves forward in its review of the LA Clean Trucks Program, we hope to work with you to ensure we avoid the huge economic, environmental, and public health costs that would result if this vital program is delayed.”

The letter was signed by Representatives (Loretta) Sanchez, (Linda) Sanchez, Miller, Lee, Fillner, Roybal-Allard, Harman, Baca, Farr, Berman, Solis, Eshoo, Woolsey, Waxman, Tauscher, Watson, Lofgren, Waters, Thompson, Schiff, Matsui, Speier, Richardson, Sherman, Cardoza, Napolitano, Becerra, Davis, Honda, Capps and Costa.  Last month, Speaker Pelosi wrote to the FMC in support of the Port of LA plan. NRDC has also urged the FMC not to delay the Ports’ Clean Trucks Plans.

We don’t know which arguments convinced the FMC not to block the Ports’ much-needed Clean Trucks Plans.  But the FMC did the right thing by siding with 31 members of Congress, NRDC, other leading environmental and public health organizations, labor organizations, and many others in declining industry’s offer to act as an obstructionist to cleaner air.  We hope the FMC will continue to allow the Ports to clean up the trucks doing business in San Pedro Bay.