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L.A. port cargo fee is OKd to help clear air

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council backed the first phase of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s clean-truck program Wednesday, imposing a cargo fee that will raise roughly $800 million to buy new and alternative-fuel trucks for haulers operating at the Port of Los Angeles.

The council unanimously endorsed a Board of Harbor Commissioners ban on all diesel trucks built before 1989 from the port starting Oct. 1. The ban, which is also taking effect in the Port of Long Beach, will be expanded in 2012 to include diesel trucks built before 2007.

The vote paves the way for the Los Angeles Harbor Department to impose a $35 fee on each loaded container that moves through the harbor, except those moved by rail. The fees will be used to subsidize the purchase of trucks retrofitted with cleaner diesel technology or engines that run on liquid natural gas.

The Harbor Commission, whose members are appointed by Villaraigosa, are scheduled to vote this year on a spending plan for the truck money. The panel also must decide whether to approve a proposal backed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that would eliminate independent truck drivers at the Los Angeles port, requiring all drivers to be employed by trucking companies.

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The Port of Long Beach balked at that provision last week. But Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn urged harbor commissioners in Los Angeles to pass the measure, which is backed by environmental groups and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a nonprofit group focused on increasing wages and health benefits for workers across the region.

“The missing piece of this is making sure these truck driving jobs are good-paying jobs,” said Hahn, who represents the port neighborhoods of San Pedro and Wilmington. “We need people driving these trucks who are well paid and can afford to keep these beautiful new trucks in good working condition.”

Harbor Commission President S. David Freeman would not say how he will vote on the employee provision of the truck plan until he hears from port Executive Director Geraldine Knatz. “When the staff makes a recommendation and puts it on the agenda, I will express myself at the meeting,” he said.

Also Wednesday, the council voted to spend $13.5 million to help 10 private companies buy 117 trucks powered by liquid natural gas. The Port of Long Beach will contribute an additional $8 million as part of that purchase.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com


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