A broad alliance of national, state and local environmental, public health, community and labor organizations applauded President Barack Obama for his appointment of Joseph E. Brennan as acting chair of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the DC agency charged with reviewing ocean-bound commerce.

“Joseph Brennan has shown an understanding that trade in the global economy can have a devastating impact in our communities and that our local officials and government need the tools to protect public health and the environment,” said Alberto Mendoza, the president of the California-based Coalition for Clean Air. “President Obama has selected someone who gets it: environmental stewardship and a strong economy are compatible.”

The Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports, an alliance of over 80 organizations and thousands of port truck drivers and residents, also includes the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the American Lung Association of California, the Teamsters, and the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma. The Coalition has endorsed the successful Port of Los Angeles’ Clean Trucks Program, which required FMC review. Brennan was the lone dissenting voice when two of his colleagues voted to take action against the diesel-emissions reduction initiative, calling their administrative delays and opposition a “colossal mistake.”

“From Day One Commissioner Brennan has understood the magnitude of the public health crisis facing the region caused by port pollution, said David Pettit, director of NRDC’s Southern California Clean Air Program. “We hope the new leadership at the Federal Maritime Commission will support the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in their efforts to implement the historic Clean Trucks Programs to develop sustainable green jobs, enhance our port economy and protect the air we breathe.”

A federal judge has since refused to halt the life-saving programs after the FMC sought an injunction during the Bush Administration. The ruling stated the agency had failed to demonstrate the Clean Trucks Programs would cause irreparable harm to – or create anti-competitive conditions for – the goods movement industry. The programs still face an industry lawsuit by clean-air opponents at the American Trucking Association.

Last winter, the Coalition gathered over 10,000 emails and postcards from community members to Members of Congress representing pollution-affected regions surrounding the LA, Long Beach and Oakland ports. They called on their elected leaders to help appoint new commissioners that share Barack Obama’s commitment to the environmentally and economically sound LA Clean Trucks Program, which in seven months has banned thousands of dirty trucks and has made significant progress towards reducing diesel truck pollution by 80%, delivering $5 billion to the regional economy, and creating stronger safety and security enforcement.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, along with Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and the entire Democratic California delegation to Congress have each written to the FMC in support of the Los Angeles green-growth policy, along with Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Despite the trucking lobby’s legal challenge, environmentalists, residents and port drivers in other cities such as Oakland, Newark and Seattle have mounted a similar effort in their communities to enact a sustainable LA-style clean-up policy.

“It’s great to hear we have another leader in Washington DC who understands how industry pollution impacts those of us who live near the ports,” said Shirley Burnell, a grandmother who lives in West Oakland, where one in five children suffers from asthma, largely due to truck pollution. “We’ve been breathing this dirty air for too long, and our local officials need the tools to do something about it before more kids get sicker.” (Coalition for Clean & Safe Ports)