The city of Long Beach rejected an appeal by the Natural Resources Defense Council that would have required a review by the city council of a settlement agreement between the Port of Long Beach and the American Trucking Associations involving the port's clean truck program.
In a letter to the NRDC, Robert E. Shannon, Long Beach city attorney, said the federal district court in Los Angeles approved the settlement between the port and ATA. Furthermore, the court stated that it retains exclusive jurisdiction and venue to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement.
The Long Beach Harbor Commission on Oct. 19 approved an agreement between the port and ATA in which the port will terminate its concession program for motor carriers. ATA challenged the concession program in federal court, charging that state and local entities are forbidden by federal statute from attempting to regulate motor carriers engaged in interstate commerce.
Long Beach agreed to replace its concession requirements with a motor carrier registration program. ATA accepted the registration program and agreed to drop its lawsuit against the port. The port and ATA submitted the settlement agreement to the federal district court in Los Angeles, which signed an Order of Voluntary Dismissal on Oct. 20.
The NRDC on Nov. 16 appealed the order of dismissal to the Long Beach City Council, charging that the settlement agreement violated the California Environmental Quality Act. Long Beach should have performed an environmental review of the agreement under CEQA before approving the settlement between the port and ATA, the NRDC charged.
Shannon rejected that argument. "The appeal conflicts with the express terms of the court order in which the federal district court retains exclusive jurisdiction and venue," the city attorney said. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld the supremacy of federal court decisions, Shannon said.
Furthermore, the Long Beach municipal code requires that an appeal of decisions reached by the city must be filed within 10 business days. The settlement agreement was approved on Oct. 19 and NRDC filed its appeal on Nov. 16, Shannon noted in his letter to the environmental group.
ATA still has a suit pending against the Port of Los Angeles in the federal district court. ATA is challenging a similar set of concession requirements that Los Angeles imposes on motor carriers calling at its marine terminals. Los Angeles has stated that it does not intend to settle with ATA and is preparing to defend its interests in court.
The original Los Angeles concession program required that motor carriers replace independent contractor drivers with employee drivers. The employee driver mandate is supported by environmental interests and the Teamsters union, which is attempting to organize harbor truck drivers across the country.
Federal district and appellate courts in California have ruled that the employee driver mandate in the Los Angeles concession program is a violation of federal law.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com.