LOS ANGELES --- The Federal Maritime Commission, the federal agency that oversees maritime trade laws, announced June 16 that it plans to drop a lawsuit that sought to block several provisions of the Clean Trucks Program enacted by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The Federal Maritime Commission last year filed the federal lawsuit to challenge the twin ports' $1.6 billion Clean Trucks program. The program's goal is to reduce diesel truck emissions by 80 percent by 2012.
In April, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon rejected the FMC's initial efforts to halt certain aspects of the Clean Trucks Program. The judge said the agency's arguments had "critical flaws."
"Having the lawsuit hanging over our heads created some uncertainty, but this clears things up and lets us move ahead with improving air quality and security at the port," said Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach.
The FMC opposed a $35 cargo fee collected by the two ports that would pay for a fleet of clean replacement trucks. The agency also opposed Los Angeles' requirement that only employee drivers could have access to port terminals under the program. Long Beach's program allows both employee and independent drivers to enter that port.
Now, the FMC said that an unrelated lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Association resulted in an injunction that removed some of those disputed provisions.
Moreover, the FMC said the program would not result in an unreasonable increase in transportation costs at the ports.
The Daily Breeze reported that the agency's change of heart comes just two weeks after President Barack Obama designated Joseph Brennan as head of the three-member panel. Brennan was the only FMC official to oppose a lawsuit against the Clean Trucks Program.
"While today's action remains subject to approval of the U.S. District Court, I am gratified that we have taken this step to clear the path for the ports' Clean Trucks Programs," Brennan said in a statement posted on the FMC's Web site.
More than 800 trucking companies and 15,000 drivers have registered in the Clean Trucks Program, which went into effect last Oct. 1 with an initial step of barring all trucks built before 1989. By 2012, all trucks entering port terminals will have to comply with 2007 federal emission standards.
"Our Clean Truck Program is ahead of schedule with successful turnover of the older fleet," said Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the American Trucking Association is pressing ahead with a separate federal lawsuit against the Clean Trucks Program. The ATA has said it supports efforts to replace dirty big rigs with cleaner trucks, but opposes concession agreements imposed by the ports. A trial is set for December, the Daily Breeze newspaper reported.