Tuesday, January 5, 2010

NRDC Files Suit Against Long Beach Port Over ATA Lawsuit Settlement

The National Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club filed suit last week against the Port of Long Beach, alleging that a federal court-sanctioned agreement that removed the port from ongoing litigation by the American Trucking Associations over the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports' Clean Trucks Program could "reverse efforts to improve air quality in communities surrounding the Port of Long Beach."

The suit, filed Dec. 29, centers around an Oct. 19 agreement reached by port officials and the ATA that effectively ended the Long Beach Port's involvement in litigation brought by the ATA against portions of both ports truck plans in September 2007.

The truck plans, which took effect in October 2008, were designed to reduce ports-generated diesel emissions from ports-servicing trucks that haul containers. The original truck plan, developed and envisioned as a single plan for both ports, eventually morphed into two distinct versions, with each port seeking to approach the truck pollution problem in slightly different ways.

The ATA argued in federal court that a major component of the plan, an access license system that essentially allowed the ports to determine which trucking firms could and could not service port terminals, violated federal law which takes precedence in matters of interstate commerce.

The federal courts agreed and injuncted the concession portion of the truck plan, pending a full court hearing on the matter.

Following this, Long Beach officials determined that their version of the truck plan could move forward without the access license component and still achieve the stated pollution reduction goals, leading to the agreement with the ATA.

The neighboring Port of Los Angeles maintains that the access license component is critical to their version of the truck plan and continue to fight the ATA lawsuit, set to go to court in the next several months.

The Dec. 29 lawsuit by the NRDC follows after an unsuccessful attempt by the group to reverse the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission agreement at the City Council level, claiming that the agreement violated city law. The Long Beach City Attorney refused to hear the NRDC appeal of the harbor Commission approval of the agreement and stated at the time that the agreement does not violate city law as the NRDC claimed. The NRDC is also alleging in their new suit that the agreement violates Long Beach city law.