11/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clean Trucks and Green Collar Jobs

Mention the word "seaport" to anyone and the issue that most readily comes to mind is that of national security. But with heightened concerns over global warming, clean air is increasingly associated with seaports. A movement is underway, with the port of Los Angeles at the forefront, implementing a model program that can serve as a blueprint nationwide.

The port of Los Angeles, which handles 20 percent of the nation's imports, ranks as the busiest container seaport in the United States. Understandably, the port also generates a large portion of the region's toxic air emissions. In 2005, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa declared, "We have a moral mandate to act now." In November 2006, under the leadership of Mayor Villaraigosa, the port adopted a Clean Air Action Plan. The express purpose of the plan is to reduce port-related emissions at least 45 percent by the year 2012, cutting pollution from trains, ships, trucks and equipment used to move cargo.

The Clean Truck Program is one key element of the plan. The program imposes rigorous emissions standards on 16,000 diesel trucks and mandates that only licensed motor carriers (LCMs) can service the port.

At a policy seminar hosted earlier this week by Drum Major Institute, Sean Arian (Mayor Villaraigosa's Director of Economic Development), outlined the following five components of the Clean Truck Program:

- "Dirty trucks" are not allowed. All pre-1989 trucks are banned. By the year 2012, all trucks must meet 2007 level standards or will be prohibited from entering the port.

- Environmental Cargo Fee was introduced -- $35 per container -- generating about $40,000 annually in revenues. The only exemptions allowed are post-2007 diesel trucks or trucks that utilize alternative fuel.

- Implemented Transportation Worker Identification Card as a matter of national security, even in advance of the federal government's schedule.

- Installed "concession program" which allowed the port and trucking company to transition into an employee-based program.

- Self-financing scheme was established wherein the fund cleans trucks in the port. The port will pay up to 80 percent of the cost of a new, environmentally friendly truck, but owners must also turn in old trucks so that they are not reintroduced elsewhere.

The Clean Truck Program is not without its detractors and, initially met with resistance. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times called for a rejection of Proposition 10.

So, what does the Los Angeles Clean Truck Program mean for the rest of the country? According to Kim Thomspon-Gaddy, Co-Chair of the North Jersey Environmental Alliance, "We need a New Jersey Clean Truck Program now!" Why? Ms. Thompson-Gaddy is of the opinion that implementing the Clean Truck Program is the first step towards 'green growth policy'. Ms. Thompson-Gaddy wants the residents of Newark to have green collar jobs. She feels it is imperative to keep health injustices (often referred to as "externalized costs to the community") connected to port growth and expansion.

Presidential candidates have also weighed in on the discussion about clean energy and green jobs. Democratic nominee Barack Obama said he would funnel federal money into job-training programs for workers to become skilled in green industries, among other initiatives. And this is a step in the right direction.