Long Beach port OKs cargo fee to fund green efforts

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The Long Beach Harbor Commission on Monday, Dec. 17, approved a $1.6-billion tax on cargo to raise money to combat air pollution and clear the way for expansion projects, the Los Angeles Times reported. The fee will help subsidize a fleet of newer, cleaner short-haul diesel trucks at port terminals.

The Port of Los Angeles is scheduled to consider a similar fee Thursday, Dec. 20. The president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission, David Freeman, told the Times that the “dirty truck” fee would be approved easily. The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports currently handle 40 percent of the goods imported into the United States. Studies have shown that the ports account for 25 percent of the diesel particulate emissions in the Los Angeles Basin.

Beginning June 1, a $35 charge will be placed on every loaded 20-foot equivalent cargo container entering or leaving the Long Beach port by truck. Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cardero told the Times he expects the fee to generate $1.6 billion by 2012 to help fund a less-polluting green fleet.

“Today’s vote will ensure that, in a short time, only the cleanest trucks will operate at the ports,” Cardero told the Times. “The next step will be to work with the trucking industry and other stakeholders to coordinate a smooth transition to a cleaner truck fleet. There are no other ports in the nation that come close to what we’re doing on the environmental front. We’ve got to grow green.”

Earlier on Monday, however, more than 150 of the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex’s 16,000 mostly low-income, Spanish-speaking independent contract truckers gathered at the entrances of five terminals, blowing whistles and holding up signs, saying they want trucking companies to buy the new trucks and hire them to drive the rigs.

“We all support cleaner air, but none of us wants a loan or a grant to buy a new truck,” truck driver Miguel Pineda, 37, told the Times. “If these plans become law, I won’t be able to put food on the family table.”

The Long Beach commission’s action followed the November approval by the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports of a phased ban on old, dirty diesel trucks that calls for replacing the entire fleet with models that meet 2007 pollution standards by 2012. The truck ban and container fees are part of the Clean Air Action Plan endorsed by both ports a year ago as part of a strategy to reduce truck diesel emissions by 80 percent.

In January, the ports are expected to vote on setting standards for port control over trucking companies, and who should own and maintain the new trucks, the Times reported. Trucking companies and shippers have argued that the ports lack the legal authority to force them to purchase the fleet.