Clean Air Advocates Sue Feds to Save Clean Trucks

Meddling by Federal Maritime Commission Threatens Public Health

LOS ANGELES (November 10, 2008) – The Federal Maritime Commission violated environmental laws when it attempted last month to block clean truck programs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to a lawsuit filed today in California federal court by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club and the Coalition for Clean Air. The programs, which went into effect October 1, will protect millions of southern Californians from toxic diesel air pollution spewed by thousands of obsolete trucks that haul cargo to and from the ports, which together are the largest source of diesel pollution in the region. A similar attempt to block the clean truck programs by the American Trucking Association was rejected by a federal judge in September. The maritime commission failed to consider the public health and environmental damage that would result from its intervention, thereby violating several bedrock environmental laws, according to the lawsuit filed today.

Following is a statement by Melissa Lin Perrella, staff attorney with NRDC’s Southern California Clean Air Program:

“The commission is standing in the way of public health. The ports need to get old, diesel-belching rigs off the road. Residents don’t have time to wait for clean air and we’re already seeing an improvement at the ports by removing some of the dirtiest trucks. In seeking an injunction, the commission willfully ignored relevant public health information and denied requests for a public hearing.”

The clean trucks programs went into effect October 1, 2008 and retired more than 2,000 pre-1989 diesel trucks from the fleet that serves the ports. Removing these diesel trucks reduced truck-produced air pollution at the ports 50 percent overnight. Roughly 17,000 diesel cargo trucks are scheduled to be phased out during the next five years and replaced with EPA 2007 compliant trucks. Replacing the port truck fleet will reduce truck-produced air pollution at the ports 80 percent by 2012.

The commission claims jurisdiction over various agreements that the ports enter into, including an agreement that facilitates implementation of the trucking programs. NRDC, the Coalition for Clean Air, and Sierra Club petitioned the commission, cautioning it not to take any action that would impede the environmental benefits of the ports’ trucking plans without first complying with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The commission rejected that petition and filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. challenging aspects of the clean trucks programs.

For more information, read David Pettit’s blog at: