Will the Supreme Court gut the Port of Los Angeles Clean Trucks Program?

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to the Port of Los Angeles’ effort to regulate and cut air pollution from trucks entering one of the nation’s largest shipping centers. We won’t know the fate of the Clean Trucks Program for a few months, but questions from the conservative justices suggest things don’t look good.

The Clean Truck Program was enacted in 2008 as part of the larger Clean Air Action Plan designed to cut pollution from the port complex – dubbed the “Diesel Death Zone” because it’s one of the largest sources of air pollution in Southern California.

Port of LA. Photo by Green Fire Productions/Flickr

But at least some elements of the Clean Trucks Program appear to be in jeopardy. Conservative justices seemed to side with the American Trucking  Association, Greenwire legal reporter Jeremy P. Jacobs told Warren Olney on Which Way, L.A.?

The Association has challenged the “concession agreement” part of the plan, which requires that  truck owners meet certain criteria before entering the port, such as providing a truck maintenance plan, financial responsibility disclosures, an off-site parking plan so trucks don’t idle in neighborhoods and ID placards so neighbors could report bad actors.

The truckers argue the port has imposed a licensing regime that interferes with interstate commerce. That’s prohibited by federal law. And it doesn’t do much for air quality either,  American Trucking Association Deputy General Counsel Rich Pianka said on Which Way, L.A.?

“We are not going to get out from under rules that are directed at air quality. But I think, on the face of it, an off-street parking plan and a placard provision are not closely related to the amount of emissions coming out of a truck tailpipe,” Pianka said.

But environmentalists worry a broad ruling from the court could undermine the entire Clean Trucks Program, including efforts to prohibit older, dirtier diesels from entering the port. That’s already reduced diesel emissions by as much as 60 percent.

“The port needs some authority to either bar bad actors from their property or put requirements on them,” Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Melissa Lin Perrella said on Which Way, L.A.?

You can listen to the full show, includes Tena Rubio’s story about life in the “Diesel Death Zone”.
Check out Jeremy Jacobs’ story on Greenwire.