Sen. Lowenthal Denies Letting Assembly Dems Kill His "No Net Increase" Port Pollution Bill ("I Fought For It"), Says He's Now Focused On Container Fee Bill (Cleared Assembly Late Aug 30 Night); Compare Original Text With Amended Version; Hear Ass'y Floor Debate (We Post Audio)
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(August 31, 2006) -- Asked by LBReport.com why he let Assembly Democrats kill his "no net increase" in port pollution bill, State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) disputed the premise of our question -- "I fought for it [SB 760]," he said several times -- but indicated he's now focusing on passage of a container fee bill.
As LBReport.com details below, Sen. Lowenthal quietly made significant changes to his container fee a week after it was blocked by Assembly Democrat leaders. Below we cite its original text (which was backed by the LB City Council and Downtown LB Associates) along with Sen. Lowenthal's revised "gut and amended" version of his container fee bill (SB 927).
Sen. Lowenthal's original container fee bill (SB 760), his "no net increase" in port pollution bill (SB 764) and a third port-related bill had already cleared the State Senate when they were blocked from progressing to the Assembly floor by Assembly Appropriations Committee chair, Judy Chu (D., Monterey Park), presumably consistent with the wishes of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D., L.A). [Neither Chu nor Nunez have returned our calls seeking comment.]
Sen. Lowenthal then used the legislature's "gut and amend" procedure, using another bill as the vehicle to carry the container fee text...but didn't do likewise for the "no net increase" bill.
Shortly before midnight on August 30, the gutted and amended version of the container fee bill cleared the Assembly on a 42-35 vote (41 votes needed). Among those voting "yes" were Assemblymembers Chu and Nunez, Assembly Democrats whose actions (Chu undeniably, Nunez tacitly) blocked advance of the original container fee bill and killed the "no net increase" bill.
"I tried to get all three [of the bills] out [of the Assembly Appropriations Committee], but it was clear that [Assembly] Speaker would only let out one bill out," Sen. Lowenthal told us at midday Aug. 30. We called his office seeking information from an aide...and instead, the Senator picked up the phone and spoke with us. Sen. Lowenthal's tone remained calm, professorial and explanatory as he discussed the high stakes issue, never raising his voice..
Asked why he didn't use the "gut and amend" procedure to advance his "no net increase" bill -- as he did for his container fee bill -- Sen. Lowenthal reiterated that it was clear that only one of his bills would be allowed to leave the Appropriations Committee and reach the Assembly floor.
Sen. Lowenthal acknowledged (as previously reported by LBReport.com) that he'd changed part of his container fee bill when he "gutted and amended" it [on or about August 24]. Under the new version of the bill, one third of the revenue raised by the container fee -- which had been slated to go to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) -- will now go to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
When we noted that CARB was the agency responsible for the controversial MOU with CA's two major railroads -- an action strongly opposed by SCAQMD, environmentalists and residents of impacted neighborhoods -- Sen. Lowenthal said his bill requires CARB to consult with AQMD.
Unlike his "no net increase" bill -- which would have established pollution baselines and required the ports to meet them as they expand --- the revised container fee bill only sets a number of pollution "goals" to be met...and decided by CARB (a non-elected body) after consulting with four other non-elected bodies (two comprised of elected members). The rest of the container fee revenue goes to rail cargo projects for the Ports (decided by the non-elected CA Transportation Commission) and security projects decided by the Ports of LB and L.A. (governed by non-elected, non-recallable Harbor Commissioners).
Under Lowenthal's revised version of the container fee bill, revenue from the $30 per TEU container fee will now be split three ways:
- One third to the CA Air Resources Board "to mitigate environmental
pollution caused by the movement of cargo to and from the port by
commercial motor vehicles, oceangoing vessels, and rail, and to fund
the administrative costs for implementing this program;" Beginning January 1, 2007, CARB "shall develop a list of projects that reduce air pollution caused by the movement of container cargo to and from" the Ports of LB and L.A. "The projects on the list shall be
consistent with the Emission Reduction Plan adopted March 2006, and shall have the overall goal of reducing air pollution at the ports in order to reach federal air quality attainment standards. The goal of the projects shall be to meet the plan's goals for 2010, 2015, and
2020. In developing the list, the board shall consult with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Gateway Council of Governments, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach...No later than September 1, 2007, the State Air Resources Board, at a public hearing, shall finalize a list of projects that meeting the Emission Reduction Plan's goals for 2010, 2015, and 2020, in order to meet federal air quality attainment standards...The State Air Resources Board may determine, at a public hearing, that the emission reduction goals for 2020 have been met or exceeded and that federal air quality standards have been met at the
Port of Los Angeles and once the determination is made, and ensuring that all approved projects have been funded, the board shall notify the Port of Los Angeles of this determination, and the Port of Los Angeles shall no longer collect the one-third of the user fee for air quality projects meant to reach these goals and federal air quality
- One third to "the California Transportation Commission exclusively for the purposes of funding rail projects that improve the rail system moving port container cargo to and from the
Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and funding the administrative costs of this program...Beginning January 1, 2007, the California Transportation Commission, shall develop a list of projects that alleviate congestion on the highways serving the Ports of Los Angeles
and Long Beach and improve the overall efficiency of container cargo movement by improving the rail system that transports container cargo from and to those ports and the on-dock rail facilities at those ports. In the process for selecting projects, the commission
shall consult with the transportation commissions for the Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura, and the Port and City of Los Angeles, the Port and City of Long Beach, and the Southern California Association of Governments. The commission
shall also hold public hearings to seek further input on developing these projects. No later than September 1, 2007, the commission, at a public hearing, shall finalize a list of projects that would alleviate the congestion on the highways serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long
Beach and improve the overall efficiency of container cargo movement by improving the rail system that transports container cargo from and to those ports and the on-dock rail facilities at those ports. This will be the final list, of infrastructure projects at the Ports of
Los Angeles and Long Beach, eligible to be funded by the user fee...Projects eligible to be on the final list shall not be used to construct, maintain, or improve highways, unless the highway or road improvement is part of a rail grade separation...."
- One third to fund "port security programs" and "administrative costs for implementing this program." Starting January 1, 2007, the port "shall develop a list of
projects that would improve and enhance the security of the port. The
port shall consult with the United States Coast Guard, the federal
Department of Homeland Security, the state Office of Homeland
Security, the Department of the California Highway Patrol, and other
state and federal agencies that may assist the port in determining a
list of projects best suited to protecting the port and its
surrounding communities...No later than September 1, 2007, and at a public hearing, the
port shall finalize a list of projects that would improve and enhance
the security of the port. This will be the final list, of port
security projects at the port eligible to be funded by the user fee
authorized pursuant to this chapter. The port may determine, at a
regularly scheduled public hearing, that other sources of security
funding are sufficient to protect the port and surrounding
communities. If this finding is made, the port shall not collect and
retain one-third of the user fee for port security, but shall only
collect the remaining two-thirds or $20 per TEU for infrastructure
and air quality improvements.
In its original form (SB 760), the container fee bill allowed the Ports of LB and L.A. to retain one-third of the funds "exclusively for the purpose of funding projects to improve the
security of the ports, including, but not limited to, the screening of shipping containers, and to fund the administrative costs."
Another third was directed to the CA Transportation Commission "exclusively for the purposes of funding rail projects that improve the rail system moving port container cargo to and from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach" and administrative costs "to alleviate congestion on the highways serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by improving the rail system that transports shipments from and to those ports and the ondock rail facilities at those ports.
And another third was to go to the South Coast Air Quality Management District for use "to mitigate environmental pollution caused by the movement of cargo to and from the ports via commercial motor vehicles, oceangoing vessels, and rail (and to fund related administrative costs) for projects that "shall be limited to reducing emissions from sources located at the ports..."
"I spoke with the Clean Air Coalition [Coalition for Clean Air], CLCV [CA League of Conservation Voters] and NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] and environmental justice groups and they felt there was so much of an attack on 760 [original container fee bill] and 764 ["no net increase" bill] that we have to focus on one of them, and their priority was that we get the container fee bill," Senator Lowenthal said. He added, "You wouldn't believe what's going on right now. I've got at least twenty lobbyists outside trying to kill the container fee."
Did SCAQMD support the change (in which the CA Air Resources Board will get a share of the container fee, but not SCAQMD)? "South Coast knows what's at stake here," Sen. Lowenthal replied [sidestepping a direct answer].
[We later phoned SCAQMD's HQ and asked a spokesperson if the agency supported the change or the bill as changed; we'll post the agency's response as received.]
Sen. Lowenthal indicated that part of the reason for the changes was to make clear that the container fee revenue could be used as a match if voters pass a bond infrastructure ballot measure -- whose revenue would provide money for port infrastructure expansion and a lesser amount for environmental "mitigation."
Asked by LBReport.com if he still supports that bond measure, Sen. Lowenthal said he'd await the outcome of the container fee bill.
When we noted that he'd called his "no net increase" bill the most important he'd introduced in all his years in the legislature, Sen. Lowenthal said he'd called the "no net increase" bill and the container fee bill the two most important bills he'd introduced in his years in the legislature.
Unlike the container fee bill (which generates revenue with "goals" but without net result enforcement guarantees), Sen. Lowenthal's "no net increase" bill" would have provided a statutory guarantee that port pollution wouldn't worsen as the Ports consume public money and infrastructure to expand.
In 2003, then-Assemblyman Lowenthal introduced a "no net increase" measure as AB 2042, which was endorsed by the City of LB (via its City Council) and SCAQMD...but was opposed by the Port of LB and the CA and LB Chambers of Commerce. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed the measure in 2004. On his election to the Senate, Lowenthal promptly reintroduced his "no net increase" measure as SB 764 as part of a package of port-related bills.
The City of LB (via the City Council) endorsed SB 764 (and the original container fee measure, SB 760). The Port of LB says it is "neutral" on SB 764...but (as reported by LBReport.com) the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities," in which the Ports of LB and L.A. are both dues paying members, has opposed the no net increase bill. The CA Trade Coalition, which includes the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities," opposed SB 760 (container fee bill) as originally written.
LBReport.com has posted Assembly floor audio (in streaming format) of the August 30 floor debate on SB 927 (the revised container fee bill). [We inserted a "whoosh" sound to indicate edits (where the speaker referred to a chart (the AQMD MATES-II modeled cancer risk map) and when we flipped over our recording cassette)]. To launch the audio (in the .ra real audio format), turn your speakers on and click here. The first voice you will hear is Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D., South Gate), Assembly floor manager for Sen. Lowenthal's bill.
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