FMC For Fifth Time Votes to Effectively Delay or Block Clean Air Program of Citizens of Los Angeles and Long Beach
December 18, 2008
Commissioner Joseph E. Brennan, a former two-term governor and former member of Congress from Maine, strongly dissented from a vote of the Federal Maritime Commission to delay, in effect, the collection of fees to fund clean trucks in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
By formally requesting more information from the parties, the Commission majority has prevented the LA/Long Beach Port Fee Services Agreement (FMC Agreement No. 201199) from taking effect until 45 days after the Commission receives answers from the parties. That delay prevents the collection of fees to pay for new, cleaner trucks. Commissioner Brennan voted against requesting further information.
Brennan is very troubled that the Commission majority has again decided to delay or block this important environmental program without justification. In April 2008 the Commission issued numerous, comprehensive questions. This was followed by the issuance of over 100 detailed questions in September 2008. The parties provided answers to these questions which, in both cases, had the effect of delaying the agreements.
Later in September 2008, the Commission launched an investigation seeking to block certain aspects of the Clean Trucks Program. Then, in October 2008, the Commission brought an action in federal court to enjoin aspects of the Clean Trucks Program.
Now, for the fifth time, the Commission is taking action to delay or block the Clean Trucks Program. Noting that this program to clean up the air in Southern California has been before the Commission in one form or another for over two years, Mr. Brennan believes that the Commission now has all the necessary information to decide that the agreement is "reasonable" under section 6(g) of the Shipping Act. The Commission has an extensive record of facts, statistics, projections, studies, and public comments.
Brennan considers it to be the Federal Maritime Commission itself, not the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, that has acted unreasonably up to this point. When taking up the Clean Trucks Program, the Commission majority has shown no deference to the policy justifications put forth by the public officials of Los Angeles and Long Beach, who are only trying to be environmentally responsible, to promote long-overdue port expansion, and to create jobs. According to one study in the record, the expanded ports would be able to support between 300,000 and 600,000 new jobs by 2025.
Brennan finds it disturbing that the Commission, while historically showing great deference to the attempts of ocean common carriers to maximize profits through price-fixing agreements, appears indifferent or oblivious to the good-faith efforts of Los Angeles and Long Beach to clean up the air. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are public entities trying to improve air quality and expand the ports. The Commission must weigh that fact when considering whether the Clean Trucks Program is "reasonable" under the Shipping Act.
Commissioner Brennan strongly believes that the Commission is not justified in acting as a roadblock to this reasonable environmental program. The Commission should allow the Port Fee Services Agreement to take effect immediately. He believes that not doing so is inconsistent with one of the four express purposes of the Shipping Act, namely to regulate "with a minimum of government intervention and regulatory costs."