A federal court ruling today put at risk all the trucking-related clean air gains that NRDC and its community and labor partners have forced the Southern California Ports to support in the last several years. From the Ports' standpoint, what is at stake is their ability to build the new expansion project that they want - because those projects depend on a clean truck fleet that now may never exist.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion today in the American Trucking Association's case against the Southern California ports. The ATA had appealed a decision from U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder that denied the ATA's request for a preliminary injunction against the trucking concession plans enacted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long beach. I blogged about Judge Snyder's decision last September.
NRDC was hoping that the appellate court would affirm Judge Snyder's denial of an injunction. That didn't happen. The ATA was hoping that the appellate court would issue an injunction itself, putting the concession plans on ice. That didn't happen either.
What the appellate court did was this: it told Judge Snyder that she had made a mistake in the way she handled the case, and sent the case back to her with instructions to analyze separately each of the provisions of the concession plans that ATA attacked to see whether they pass legal muster. The court also told Judge Snyder to consider whether, if she finds some of the provisions illegal, the entire concession agreement should be enjoined pending the trial on the merits.
The appellate court strongly suggested, but did not decide in a way that is binding, that the employee provisions of the Port of Los Angeles concession plan are illegal. Those provisions phase in a requirement that trucks serving the Port be owned by companies that employ the drivers - the theory being that these well-capitalized companies would be better able to maintain, repair and replace the trucks than the low-income drivers who fulfill (or don't) those requirements now.
These are the issues that will be before Judge Snyder very soon. NRDC will be there, fighting for clean air and public health.