The executive director of the Port of Long Beach, Richard Steinke, is fighting back against the Natural Resources Defense Council's criticism of the port's move to settle with the American Trucking Associations
. In a letter on the port's web site, Steinke responded to NRDC comments that the settlement caused the port to abandon its "environmental goals."

"That is simply false," Steinke said of the NRDC's comments. "In fact, our environmental goals are being achieved much faster than expected."

Earlier this month, the port announced that its Clean Trucks Program, the center of the dispute, was on schedule to reduce truck air pollution by almost 80 percent by Jan. 1, 2010, two years ahead of schedule.

Last week, the port announced that it had reached a settlement with the ATA that will end the ATA's legal challenge of the Clean Trucks Program. The settlement is based upon a motor carrier registration process, referred to as a Registration and Agreement, which will replace the Port's Concession Agreement. As part of their settlement, the port will allow both employee drivers and owner-operators to operate at the port.

Steinke emphasized that the settlement is good news for cleaning the air, but that the NRDC has a different agenda. "The NRDC's real objection to the Clean Trucks Program has nothing to do with clean air," said Steinke. "By aligning itself with the Teamsters, who have been very public about their campaign to unionize port truckers nationwide, the NRDC is pursuing an agenda beyond air quality."

"We can accept differences of opinion on that issue - but we won't accept the NRDC's false criticism that the ATA settlement is somehow compromising our environmental goals," said Steinke.

"The new system, agreed to by the ATA in the settlement, simplifies and streamlines our already successful Clean Trucks Program," he added. "Under the new registration system, trucking firms still will be required to register their trucks and equip them with electronic devices so we can verify that only clean trucks that meet our tough standards are entering our shipping terminals."

To read Steinke's letter, click here.