Ports unveil clean-air plan

sportsou

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A proposal to overhaul the port trucking industry by restricting terminal access to motor carriers with the cleanest fleets was announced Friday by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The long-awaited Clean Trucks Program seeks to phase out the current "owner-operator" trucking system by awarding annual franchise rights to motor carriers who agree to use less-polluting diesel trucks operated only by drivers with employee status.

Under the plan, container trucks not meeting port clean-air standards by January 2008, including most pre-1994 trucks, would be assessed a gate fee estimated at $34 to $54 for each terminal visit. Eventually, older trucks would be banned under the plan.

A similar fee is being proposed for trucks calling at non-container terminals.

"It's a major undertaking, but it's going to result in major improvements in air quality," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard Steinke. "Over the next five years, there should be a huge air quality benefit for surrounding communities."

The truck plan requires majority approval by both harbor commissions, which port staff hopes to accomplish by mid-summer.

In addition, port officials Friday revealed a tentative plan to assess a $24 fee on every twenty-foot-equivalent container moving through the port to pay for infrastructure improvements. The plan would supplement recent state bond monies approved to improve goods movement.

Additional aspects of the proposed container fee, such as who would collect the money and how it would be distributed, are being debated, said Port of Long Beach Spokesman Art Wong.

The ports' goal in their recently approved Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) is to dramatically reduce emissions from the estimated 16,000 diesel trucks calling on waterfront terminals every day. The pollution from these vehicles and other port industry has been linked to increased rates of asthma, cancer and other ailments.

The Clean Trucks Program seeks to replace more than 80 percent of harbor trucks with vehicles meeting 2007 and newer federal EPA standards within five years.
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