A federal judge has ruled that the Port of Long Beach broke state law when it failed to perform an environmental impact study before settling an American Trucking Associations lawsuit over some components of its Clean Truck Program.

In October 2009, ATA and the Port announced a settlement to end the ATA's legal challenge of the port's Clean Trucks Program. Environmental and other groups challenged that move.

As a result, U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder has ruled that the settlement violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it failed to do a study of the environmental impacts of the changes it made to its program.

The settlement was based upon a motor carrier registration process that would allow the port to strictly oversee and enforce motor carrier compliance with federal, state, and port safety, security, and environmental regulations -- without banning owner-operators from the port.

According to published reports, ATA sees the ruling as a procedural matter in which Long Beach must address the EIR issue, and that the ruling does not mean the Long Beach program must be scrapped.

Port officials say they are evaluating the order and considering their next steps. "We'll go back to Judge Snyder next week with a plan for moving forward in a way that won't compromise the success of the program," said POLB spokesman John Pope.

The port also issued a statement from Executive Director Richard D. Steinke, saying, "Our Clean Trucks Program has been a major environmental success, reducing truck pollution by 80 percent so far. We've replaced thousands of older trucks with new, cleaner models. In just six months the program will hit its final deadline, and 100% of the trucks serving the port will meet stringent environmental standards. At that point truck pollution will be cut by 90 percent from 2008 levels. This program has brought major air quality benefits to the Long Beach community and the entire Southern California region. We continue to stand behind this successful program, both in the air-quality results and the process by which that success was achieved."

(See ATA Files Suit to Block Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports Concession Plans, 7/29/2008, for more on the ATA's original suit.)