LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Federal Maritime Commission voted Wednesday to seek a court order to halt portions of the clean truck program at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The panel plans to file for an injunction in federal court in Washington, claiming the new rules governing truck emissions will reduce competition and either increase transportation costs or reduce service at the port.
The program, which began this month, retired more than 2,000 older diesel trucks from the fleet that serves the port and will phase out about 16,000 diesel cargo trucks over the next five years. Port officials have said replacing the port truck fleet will reduce truck-produced air pollution at the ports by 80 percent by 2012.
"The commission appreciates the potential environmental and public health goals" of the program, said commission press secretary Karen V. Gregory said. However, she said, removing some parts of the plan, such as the requirement for independent truckers to become employees of trucking companies, would allow the ports to reap clean air benefits without introducing anti-competitive restrictions.
The Port of Los Angeles defended its program, noting that more than 750 carriers representing more than 32,000 trucks have signed on.
"The clean trucks program has proven to be highly competitive," the port said in a statement Wednesday night. "We believe the Federal Maritime Commission fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the clean trucks program."
The American Trucking Associations, which represents 37,000 trucking companies, sought a court order to stop the plan but a federal judge denied the request and an appeals court upheld the ruling last month.
Together, the two ports handle about 40 percent of the nation's imports.
Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope defended the program and the employee requirement.
"Capitalized companies can afford to buy and maintain the clean trucks we need -- individual workers cannot and that's why we need the employee requirement to sustain cleanup in the long run," Pope said.
He called the commission's vote "the Bush administration's last-ditch effort to let the nation's largest trucking lobby off the hook for the pollution they create."