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Legislation Would Restore the EPA Award-winning Los Angeles Clean Truck Program and Empower Port Agencies to Implement Similarly Effective Clean Air Programs Across the Nation

On the heels of massive protests that exposed an industry responsible for dirty air and dead-end jobs on the docks, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and several of her colleagues are earning praise from an unprecedented nationwide “blue-green” coalition for introducing critical legislation that would give local governments wider tools to spur green U.S. job creation and enforce big rig truck emissions-compliance on the trucks that haul cargo in and out of our nation’s economic engines.

Several influential lawmakers from both coastal and landlocked states joined Gillibrand to cosponsor the Clean Ports Act. It is the companion bill to H.R. 572, introduced by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), which enjoys the support of nearly 60 co-sponsors, and would make it more difficult for industry polluters to dismantle life-saving emissions programs like the EPA-award winning Los Angeles Clean Truck Program.

“Congress must act to provide New York, and cities all across the country, with the common sense tools they need to improve the quality of air and quality of life for millions of people,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “It’s time to update federal laws and allow our nation’s ports to help reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality for all New Yorkers by putting clean trucks on the road.”

“With this bill, New Yorkers who live in and near the working waterfront will be able to breathe a little easier knowing that Congress has provided the tools to ensure that the thousands of trucks on their roads are using the latest in clean technology,” said Senator Schumer. “This is a common-sense initiative that will improve public health without diminishing economic activity in our port. I look forward to pushing hard for it in the Senate.”

In addition to Senator Schumer, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Al Franken (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined Senator Gillibrand as original co-sponsors of the Clean Ports Act.

“The Clean Ports Act will provide an important mechanism to curb diesel emissions and allow port area residents to breathe easier,” said Senator Menendez. “I am proud to cosponsor this legislation that will protect the public health.”

Emissions from old, dirty trucks servicing the ports subject an estimated 87 million Americans to dire health consequences like asthma and heart disease. Poor air quality is a major reason that job-creating infrastructure projects have been stalled. The Clean Ports Act will also serve a top Obama administration priority by upending the controversial practice of misclassifying port truck drivers as independent contractors as a way to skirt workplace laws, environmental regulations and payroll taxes.

“Clean ports programs have already demonstrated the most effective approaches for reducing pollution and making ports more competitive,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We are pleased Senator Gillibrand and her Senate colleagues are introducing this act, which would free ports across the country to do right by their communities, workers, and the environment all while supporting a healthy bottom line.”

In addition to the BlueGreen Alliance, supporters of the Clean Ports Act include the mayors and city councils of New York and Newark and the mayors of Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle. Local, state and national groups supporting the bill include the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, the New Jersey Environmental Federation, Sierra Club, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Center for Environmental Health. Faith-based organizations, like the Church Council of Greater Seattle and GreenFaith, and businesses, such as Crowley Maritime Corporation and American Stevendoring, Inc., also support the legislation.

Specifically, the Clean Ports Act would clarify an obscure provision in the 30-year-old Motor Carrier Act which prohibits local port agencies from exercising regulatory authority to enforce clean air standards. The American Trucking Associations, a well-heeled trucking industry lobby with a long history of litigating environmental regulations sued to gut key provisions of the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program, essentially erecting a roadblock for other port agencies seeking to implement similarly effective clean air measures.

Unscrupulous actors in the goods movement industry also undermine legitimate businesses operating at the ports and threaten further growth and expansion at our ports.

“If these drivers were in a position to purchase and care for environmentally-friendly trucks with their current wages, the air pollution that threatens to impede our growth and efficiency wouldn’t be an issue in the first place,” said Matt Yates, Director of Commercial Operations for American Stevendoring, Inc. “Modernizing the port is a long-term investment that merits real capital and real commitment between port authorities and private businesses – not workers behind the wheel.”

“The trucking industry misclassifies employees as independent contractors,” said Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa. “They push their costs of doing business onto the backs of low-income drivers. Port drivers can’t afford to buy clean new trucks, let alone maintain them. It’s time to stop exploiting people who work hard moving goods from America’s shores to America’s stores. And it’s time to clean the air around the ports.”

Prior to being dismanted by the trucking industry, the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program held the promise of basic employee rights and workplace protections for an estimated 110,000 port truck drivers across the country. By January, 2012 nearly 11,000 new, clean trucks will be servicing the Los Angeles/Long Beach ports reducing toxic diesel emissions by 80 percent.

“The numbers speak for themselves and no amount of legal acrobatics on the part of the trucking industry can change that,” said Matt Ryan, the executive director of the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN). “Full implementation of the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program is still the best, most effective solution to curbing diesel emissions, and I applaud Senator Gillibrand for championing environmental and economic justice for port cities around the country, including the New York and New Jersey ports in our own backyard.”

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