Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

As the port turns...

After a while, the port's environmental issues can seem like a soap opera to a daily reporter. (Anyone else have a mom who loved Lucinda Walsh?) On Monday, the Port of Long Beach took the opportunity presented by the first Monday of 2010 to tout last year's clean trucks success, and this year's stricter rules. A few days before that, the Natural Resources Defense Council stacked another lawsuit on its sky-high pile of port-air paperwork: this time, over the Port's settlement of its lawsuit with the American Trucking Association. Both happenings reflect the distance across which all parties are seeing each other. Which is pretty far lately.

Port of Long Beach environmental affairs director Bob Kanter sees it like this: “The clean-trucks program is nearly two years ahead of schedule in improving air quality." He and the Port of Los Angeles say they're not alone: the EPA handed them an Environmental Justice award last year too.

The Natural Resources Defense Council doesn't agree. In their newly-filed legal complaint, NRDC lawyers argue the Port of Long Beach violated state environmental law last October, just after the trucks' plan's first anniversary, by failing to consider the health of residents when it settled the lawsuit with the American Trucking Association. In other words, the port gave away the store when it maybe shouldn't have unlocked the door.

For the ATA, this latest lawsuit is just another example of a stranglehold Los Angeles harbor officials and environmentalists want to keep on employment and labor issues at the harbor complex. ATA's spokes-VP Clayton Boyce maintains (sometimes on this website, in the comments) that the way the ports went about setting up the clean trucks program wasn't in the name of cleaner air, but in the name of labor reforms.

It'll be interesting to see what a court might do with the settlement, particularly paragraph 4, where it says: "...any material change by the Long Beach defendants to the registration and agreement..." would be a breach of the settlement. Sure sounds like Long Beach gave something away there. How big it is, and whether it could...tune in next time as the port turns.

P.S. Back right around Christmas (December, if the recent pasts escape you) I profiled a trucker who had lost his job, and a longtime trucking company owner. Commenters to both these stories smelled bias in presenting one or the other; ideally, it would have been best to feature such different perspectives on the same day. Both stories were good opportunities for commenters to flame each other. What it seems most people missed is that Jorge Castillo and Josh Owen, as much as neither man would like to think it, have something in common: they both intently and passionately believe in cleaner air, if not as a matter of climatic concern, then as a matter of health. They also both believe the cost burden belongs somewhere else. You may believe one man is more right than the next; hell, one man may be more right than the next. But it's hard to see how anyone's going to get a problem solved, when they're not even talking about the subjects on which they agree.