The Federal Maritime Commission has formed a Maritime Environmental Advisory Committee. This isn’t fresh news–the FMC announced the action last November–but it’s still worth noting.
It is a smart move by Chairman Rick Lidinsky. He announced it, appropriately so, while on a visit to the San Pedro Bay ports. Says the FMC press release: “I wanted to recognize these ports’ leadership in demonstrating that the maritime industry can remain commercially competitive while acting in a manner consistent with the country’s commitment to energy independence and environmental standards.” While those two largest of US ports have led the way in greening seaport operations the Lidinsky comments were a particular reference to the ports’ more recent Clean Trucks Program. It was his way to demonstrate the agency’s new leadership.
The program–in conjunction with the efforts of an enlightened shipper community–has been very successful in reducing port drayage trucking diesel emissions by a praiseworthy 80 percent. Doing it well ahead of schedule. The program has inspired similar action in other parts of the country and, with the exception of one particular element, has the strong support of both public and private interests. (The exception is the controversial “employee driver” provision in the Los Angeles plan that is being challenged by the American Trucking Association in court.)
The formation of the FMC panel followed by several months a decision in the FMC to halt its action against the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Their joint action raised technical issues under the Shipping Act and that prompted an FMC complaint in court as well as the decision to start an FMC enforcement investigation. (The environmental objectives of the clean trucks program were not challenged.) The decision to withdraw the complaint took place before Lidinsky’s arrival at the FMC.
The bid in court proved unproductive. I’ve not the training to judge the merits of the complaint. But I do know that the new chairman–a sharp fellow–knew what he was doing when he asked his staff what was their understanding of the environmental issues that color and confront maritime related activity in the United States today.
On learning the answer Lidinsky took action. A Maritime Environmental Advisory Committee was formed. Strictly an internal panel, the press release notes that the staff committee’s purpose is “consistent” with Obama administration policy for the development of “green jobs”, etc. A reference to creating jobs is de rigueur for a government press release these days, likewise an ethos statement on seeking “a more sustainable approach to maritime issues.”
On a more basic level, however, the new advisory committee would help the commissioners understand what is going on in the maritime realm and tune the agency’s work–its deliberations and services–to what is an undeniably changed environment–regardless of the party in power–in which business and government now has to operate. And smartly so. Pbea