(June 20, 2006) -- The Assembly Transportation Committee on June 19 passed State Senator Alan Lowenthal's "no net increase" in port pollution bill (SB 764) which requires the Ports of LB and L.A. to set air quality emissions baselines and meet those baselines no later than Jan. 1, 2010 or incur fines.
LBReport.com monitored the hearing via internet webcast and flashed the result on our front page within moments of the vote. We follow with in depth coverage here.
The bill (full text on link below) advanced to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a bare minimum 7-5 vote, putting it a step closer to the Assembly floor. SB 764 has already passed the State Senate.
In the hearing chaired by Assemblywoman (and former LB Councilwoman) Jenny Oropeza (D., Carson-LB), the legislation was opposed by industry-related groups (listed below) and the "CA Ass'n of Port of Authorities" speaking on behalf of CA's eleven publicly owned commercial deep water ports...which include the Ports of LB and L.A.
Although the Port of LB didn't publicly oppose the bill, the current (rotating) President of the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" (until September 2006) is Port of LB Executive Director, Richard Steinke. [LBReport.com first reported this last year.]
The Port's use of a third party [to conduct what we term "stealth lobbying"] to try and defeat legislation supported by the City Council comes at an awkward moment...with the Port of LB scheduled to present its first annual "Green Port" report at the City Council's meeting today (June 20).
On June 19, the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" presented opposition to the bill (as it has in the past) via a Sacramento lobbying firm (which has the same address listed by the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" in its filings with the Secretary of State).
LBReport.com has obtained a copy of the testimony submitted on behalf of the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" and posted it in pdf form. To read it [we've omitted contact phone numbers], click here.
The "California Association of Port Authorities" written testimony raised the prospect that if the Lowenthal bill's clean air requirements became law, money from a proposed November 2006 infrastructure bond ballot measure couldn't be used for air quality improvements.
[boldface in original] [W]e believe important goods movement-related souirces will be precluded form receiving bond moneuy for air quality improvements should this bill pass. The transportation bond proposal, as presented...(SB 1266, Perata), includes a specific allocation of $1 billion for emission reductions from activities related to the movement of freight. The bond bill specifies, however, that funds be used only for "emission reductions not otherwise required by law or regulation". If SB 764 is to become law the California Air Resources Board would not be allowed to allocate the bond fund for air quality improvements related to the principal emissions sources calling at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long beach. Not only would our trade economy be devastated by the bill, but the local communtiies in port areas would not benefit from the important air quality imoprovement funds included in the transportation bond.
In response, Senator Lowenthal said the state of California faced losing multi-billions of dollars in federal transportation funds if it isn't in compliance with federal Clean-Air Act requirements by 2010.
And Senator Lowenthal added that the Schwarzenegger administration [via the CA Air Resources Board] had approved a non-binding "Emission Reduction Plan for Ports and Goods Movement" which plans to reduce statewide emissions 20-40% below the 2010 targets for all pollutants. Senator Lowenthal said his bill effectively puts teeth in the Schwarzenegger administration's non-binding plan.
The Assembly Transportation Committee's legislative analysis listed supporters and opponents as follows:
REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION :
American Lung Association of California
California Air Pollution Control Officers Association
California League of Conservation Voters
California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
City of Long Beach
City of Rancho Palos Verdes
Clean Power Campaign
Coalition for a Safe Environment
Coalition for Clean Air
Downey Chamber of Commerce
First Congregational Church of Long Beach
Natural Resources Defense Council.
Sierra Club California
South Coast Air Quality Management District
The Planning and Conservation League
Union of Concerned Scientists
California Department of Finance
California Chamber of Commerce
California Department of Transportation
California Railroad Industry
Harbor Association of Industry and Commerce
Pacific Merchant Shipping Association
The California Trade Coalition
The International Council of Cruise Lines
Western States Petroleum Association
Sen. Lowenthal's efforts to set emission baselines for the Ports of LB and L.A. has been a continuing source of friction between the LB City Council (which supports the legislation) and the Port of LB (which opposed a 2004 version of it (AB 2042) and urged Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto it, which he did).
Then-Assemblyman Lowenthal called AB 2042 the most important bill he'd introduced in his years in Sacramento...and the Port of LB's efforts to kill it reverberated at the LB City Council which publicly endorsed the bill.
Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Tonia Reyes Uranga sought to find ways to make the Port's legislative advocacy consistent with City Council-established policy...and raised the prospect of removing Port-budgeted advocacy spending unless Port policies were consistent with City Hall policies.
That prompted LB's non-elected, non-recallable (Mayor chosen, Council approved) Board of Harbor Commissioners to take the position that if the Council changed their budget, they'd have to reexamine other budget assumptions...including the Port's planned transfer to City Hall's Tidelands fund of several million Port dollars that Harbor Commission had declared surplus. The Council backed down...but the issue continued to simmer.
In 2005, the Port of LB unveiled its "Green Port" policy...which pledges fidelity to a number of environmentally friendly principles but is without specific attainment deliverables or enforcement mechanisms.
At roughly the same time in 2005, now-Senator Lowenthal reintroduced AB 2042 as SB 764.
The Assembly Committee hearing was chaired by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D., Carson-LB), a former LB Councilwoman who recently overcame a serious cancer and spoke about the impact of illenesses in human, personal terms.
The Committee vote was along party lines with Democrats supporting (barely collecting the seven "yes" votes needed) and Republicans opposing.
The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee (a non-policy, fiscal hurdle)...and if it passes that Committee, it can advance to the Assembly floor. The bill has already passed the state Senate.
What Gov. Schwarzenegger will do if the Lowenthal bill again reaches his desk -- this time in an election year coinciding with his own reelection plus a multi-million dollar transportation bond measure pending -- remains to be seen. During his recall campaign for Governor, then-candidate Schwarzenegger called clean air a right for every Californian.
To view SB 764 as it passed the Assembly Transportation Committee, click here.