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American Shipper

SoCal ports file defense of ATA truck plan injunction request

SoCal ports file defense of ATA truck plan injunction request

Long Beach and Los Angeles ports responded in federal court Thursday opposing a trucking industry request for injunction against a portion of the ports' trucking re-regulation plan that requires ports-issued access licenses of all trucking firms wishing to continue doing business at the ports after Oct. 1.

   The injunction request, to be decided in a U.S. District Court on Sept. 8, is part of an American Trucking Associations lawsuit filed July 28 against the ports' access license program. The ATA claims the local port authorities are trying to supersede interstate commerce law.

   'We feel that because we have a proprietary interest as a harbor district we are able to set standards and we do not believe that we are bordering on preemption issues or interfering with commerce,' said Mario Cordero, Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission vice president.

   In a 50-page joint response, the ports argue that the ATA injunction request is without legal basis for three reasons:

   ' The ports are located on 'sovereign tidelands' akin to Native American reservations, and general federal shipping laws that do not implicitly address the ports local authority — such as U.S. Code Title 46, '14501 that the ports claim form the basis of the ATA argument for the injunction — do not supersede the ports' local authority.

   ' The federal '14501 statue does not apply to actions taken by the ports as 'market participants' that have the right to set standards on who can and can not do business with them.

   '    The statute does not apply to actions taken by the ports in pursuit of 'safety and security,' which the ports claim is a major goal of the access license component of the truck plan.

   In the filing, the ports also argue that the alleged health benefits of the truck plan outweigh the financial impacts of the plan to the transportation industry.

   'The ATA lawsuit directly attacks the ports' efforts to dramatically reduce truck-related pollution and improve the safety, security and efficiency of Port operations,' said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Dick Steinke. 'We strongly believe that our plan is lawful and we will vigorously oppose any action that will delay the Clean Truck Program.'

   The truck plan, developed jointly by the two ports and introduced in March 2007, seeks to replace or retrofit all trucks in the local drayage fleet with trucks meeting federal EPA 2007 emission standards within five years. To do this the ports have created three major components within the truck plan:

   ' A rolling-multiyear ban that slowly bars older trucks from the ports.

   ' A financing plan that offers subsidies to truck owners to replace or retrofit their trucks.

   ' An access license program to enforcing the clean air components by restricting who can and can not enter port terminals.

   The three components are set to take affect Oct. 1.

   In addition to the ports' arguments, the filing contained declarations in support of the ports' position from Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz, Steinke and the planning directors of the two ports.

   South Coast Air Quality Management Deputy Executive Director Elaine Chang also submitted a declaration noting the alleged health impacts to Southern California residents if the truck plan is blocked. Executives from two local trucking firms, Fox Transportation and American Container Express, submitted statements of support for the ports’ truck plan.

   In a related development, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Coalition for Clean Air on Thursday filed a half-dozen declarations with the District Court supporting the ports' truck plan. The three groups, which are also asking the court to add the groups to the lawsuit as defendants, mirror the “health benefits” argument made in the ports' filing.

   The three groups, long-time supporters of the truck plan's environmental goals, acknowledge that while ATA is only suing over the non-environmental access license component of the truck plan, the access license component is integral to the truck plan as a whole. Injuncting the access license component, argues the three groups, would doom the entire truck plan and thus seriously impact the ports ability to cut ports-generated truck pollution in the near term.

   The presiding federal judge in the case is also to decide on the addition of the three groups to the lawsuit during the Sept. 8 hearing. ' Keith Higginbotham

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