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The Long Beach Harbor Commission deserves strong praise for their decision to clean up dirty trucks at the port despite the threat of lawsuits from a coalition of environmental groups and labor unions. The Port of Long Beach’s plan will cut smog emissions at the port by up to 90 percent within the next four years and ban the dirtiest diesel trucks from operating by the end of 2008.
Who would have expected that the greatest obstacle to implementing this pro-environment plan would be a group of environmentalists? That is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when a coalition led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) threatened to sue the Port of Long Beach over their implementation of the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP).
In late 2006, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach jointly approved CAAP, the most progressive and far-reaching port environmental clean program anywhere in the world. The plan establishes aggressive milestones to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, retrofit trucks and dock equipment with clean technology, and implement a long-range strategy to simultaneously grow and green our ports.
In their notice to sue the Port of Long Beach, the NRDC claimed that the port was stalling CAAP implementation. This is not true. The threat was actually a strategy by a coalition of labor and environmental organizations to pressure the port into re-regulating port truckers. The employer mandate would force thousands of independent truck drivers to become employees of major trucking corporations or go out of business entirely.
Supporters contend that forcing independent drivers to become employees would benefit drivers and the environment. However, the Port of Long Beach plan ensures that all drivers—employees and independents—will be entitled to health insurance as well as funding to retrofit their trucks with clean technology. A survey of more than 1,000 independent drivers found that 80 percent opposed the employer mandate and preferred the Long Beach plan.
Let me be clear. The L.A. Area Chamber is not opposed to workers joining a union. Every worker should have that right free of coercion or intimidation. What we are opposed to is using tactics like this to hold our region’s environment and economy hostage on projects that are poised and ready to clean up our air.
We are also in the middle of a delay at the Port of Los Angeles. Last month, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved the TraPac terminal expansion project following years of careful planning. When completed, TraPac will be a national model for clean technology, while at the same time improving the flow of goods into our region. The same coalition has asked the Los Angeles City Council to modify or delay this project as well.
These political power plays not only stall the implementation of CAAP, they invite lengthy lawsuits that will force residents living near the ports to wait many years longer for cleaner air from state-of-the-art facilities such as TraPac.
At first, the goods movement industry had a difficult time swallowing the Clean Air Action Plan. Industry is now moving toward the political center and leading the way with important financial concessions and technological advancements. Labor and environmental groups should do the same. That’s the surest way to clean up our air today rather than fight inside a courtroom tomorrow.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary L. Toebben
President & CEO
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
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