December 16, 2011

Gillibrand, Schumer Introduce Bill to Empower Cities’ Ports to Regulate Clean Truck Programs

Clean Ports Act’ Would Empower Cities’ Ports to Put Cleaner Trucks on the Road, Reduce Pollutants, Improve Quality of Air for All New Yorkers

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced legislation that would allow local ports, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to regulate and enforce fuel-efficient truck programs that go beyond current federal mandates.  Under the Clean Ports Act of 2011, port cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Newark, Oakland and Seattle would have the authority to set standards, reduce emissions and improve air quality by replacing older diesel trucks with cleaner vehicles without imposing the burden onto truck drivers. Earlier this year, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, re-introduced the House version of the bill. 

“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.” 

“The Clean Ports Act is a critical modernization of federal law that would dramatically improve the quality of air for the 87 million Americans who live and work near major container ports,” said Congressman Nadler (D-NY), the House sponsor of the legislation. “It is indefensible that ports are being challenged from enforcing clean truck programs to replace highly polluting and outmoded diesel trucks. Such pollution profoundly increases rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease and contributes to a growing public health crisis across the nation. I am thrilled that Senator Gillibrand has joined this important campaign to clean up our ports and protect Americans from unnecessary pollution.” 

“Improving air quality for every New Yorker who lives and works near our waterfront is an important piece of the broader environmental goals of PlaNYC, our long-term infrastructure and sustainability strategy,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “The Clean Ports Act will give the City the ability to partner with all stakeholders in developing effective strategies to reduce emissions from the trucks that use our ports.” 

Approximately 95% of the nation’s 110,000 port trucks fail to meet Environmental Protection Agency emission standards. According to agency estimates, poor air quality impacts 87 million people who live and work near U.S. ports. 

The Clean Ports Act of 2011, co-sponsored by Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Al Franken (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) would amend the Federal Motor Carrier Act to allow cities’ ports to set clean truck initiatives and delegate responsibility for the upgrade costs. 

Here in New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey proposed a 10-year clean air strategy that would reduce port activity-related pollutants by 30 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. This new federal legislation would enable and empower New York City and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to do more to reduce truck pollution and emissions. 

In Los Angeles, the clean truck program is set to permanently ban all trucks with engines made prior to 2007 from operating at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning on January 1, 2012.   However, the portion of the program that would require truck companies to hire drivers as direct employees rather than contract with individual “owner-operators” was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on September 26, 2011.

More than 150 civic, environmental, labor, business, and civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Change to Win, American Stevedoring, Inc., BlueGreen Alliance, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Sierra Club, Apollo Alliance, and Natural Resources Defense Council, support the Clean Ports Act.