The Federal Maritime Commission: Not Just Bad For The Environment

 But a job-killer as well.  Today, the FMC voted 2-1 to put the Clean Trucks Plan of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on ice for more than 45 days by attempting to freeze the Ports' ability to collect fees to fund new, clean trucks.  I blogged about the background of this vote yesterday.  Today, I want to talk about the consequences.  The FMC's vote to delay collecting clean truck fees will delay the Clean Trucks Plans for both Ports, delay clean air gains at the Ports, and delay all new port development that envisions port trucks as part of the project - because without a funding source for new, clean trucks, the Ports' ambitious, unprecedented plan to clean up the environmental mess they have made will fail. 

The most immediate consequence is that all Port projects that rely on the validity of the Clean Trucks Program must come to a stop.  How many projects is that?  All of them - including the huge China Shipping project that is up for a vote tomorrow at the Port of Los Angeles.  The FMC vote today has invalidated the bases for the emissions modeling and health risk assessments on which all the current Port environmental reviews are based.  This has put all Port expansion at risk, as well as jobs at the many trucking companies that have put significant investment into obtaining a cleaner fleet of trucks -- many of these companies wrote to the FMC complaining about the agency's recalcitrance.  Also put at risk is the Ports' ability to handle throughput increases when the economy recovers.

 Another direct consequence is that the Ports are losing $1 million or more each day that they cannot collect the clean trucks fees.  This will delay the date when new, clean trucks can replace the thousands of old, dirty trucks that now haul containers to and from the Ports. 

 A friend of mine wrote me today, saying:  "I'm glad the FMC is looking out for me and my family in these bad economic times but it is strange that they appear to be more concerned that I be able to afford a plasma TV vs. living long enough to raise my son."  The FMC, like the American Trucking Association in its lawsuit against the Ports' Clean Trucks Plan, is elevating profit over the real public health concerns that my friend raises  - but is doing so in a way that will backfire because, if it is successful, Port business will decline and profits will fall.  And, if the FMC has its way, the environmental gains that have already occurred due to the Clean Trucks Plan will be reversed.  Your tax dollars at work.

 NRDC has long argued that Port expansion in Southern California must be accompanied by a real cleanup of the deadly air pollution that Port operations have caused.  I recently met with President-elect Obama's transition team on the FMC to suggest concrete policy changes at the FMC to make sure that port operations and environmental values go hand in hand.  The President-elect himself supports these goals, but apparently two of the three sitting FMC commissioners have not gotten the message.  The upcoming change in administrations can only be good for economic and environmental gains at our Ports.