As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, September 13, 2008, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has taken steps that threaten to shut down the entire Clean Trucks Program enacted by the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach - a program that is based on the phasing out of older trucks. The FMC action, not coincidentally, follows a resounding legal defeat of the American Trucking Association (ATA), the same group that has repeatedly said, and whose lawyer told a federal judge in open court, that the ATA did not oppose the phased-in ban. The question at hand is whether the FMC can legally stop the Clean Trucks Plans from moving forward, and it seems that ATA hopes this is the case.
Last month, the ATA filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Ports' trucking concession plans, but purporting not to challenge the ban of older trucks. On August 18, 2008, the ATA filed a document with the FMC titled "Comments of the Intermodal Motor Carriers Conference, American Trucking Associations." At page six of this document, ATA asks the FMC to "Undertake A Competitive Review And Analysis Of The Ports' Concession Programs And Assess The Impact Of Enforcement Of The Clean Truck Programs' October 1 Deadlines Prior To Permitting The Agreement To Take Effect." Sounds like ATA wants the entire Clean Trucks Program stopped, doesn't it?
The FMC took the bait, and on September 12, 2008, three days after ATA lost its effort in federal court to stop a critical part of the Clean Trucks Plan, the FMC issued a press release stating:
By a 2-1 vote, the Federal Maritime Commission determined ...additional information is essential to the Commission's understanding of the costs and benefits of the Ports' Clean Truck Program (CTP), and the likely effect of the Agreement on transportation costs and services. Such analysis is required of the Commission as mandated by the Shipping Act of 1984.
FMC Commissioner Brennan got the drift and didn't like it. He wrote in dissent:
"...voted "no" to a staff recommendation to further delay a comprehensive environmental and economic plan of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach contained in their cooperative working agreement. Mr. Brennan believes that the Commission is making a monumental mistake in delaying, yet again, the overall environmental plan that the cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach have developed to address serious health concerns and needed port expansion in the region. Earlier, in April of 2008, the Commission delayed the Ports' related implementation agreement by requesting additional information. Some of the questions in the April request are essentially repeated in this latest September request.
So where does this leave us? The ATA did not get what it wanted in its federal court lawsuit so it wants to move its fight, whatever the public health and economic cost, to a friendlier "court," the FMC. We'll be there too, ready to defend the health of millions of Southern California residents who breathe the pollution that ATA's members produce.