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    Guest Opinion

    Port Expansion Puts North & West LB Up For Grabs In SB 974

    Dan Pressburg

    Mr. Pressburg, a NLB community advocate, is a former aide to LB Councilman Val Lerch. His opinions below are independent of the Councilman.

    (July 8, 2007) -- State Senator Alan Lowenthal says he's "negotiating" amendments to SB 974 (his container fee/"Port investment bill") in response to a proposed L.A. City Council resolution that advocates positions favored by the Ports of LB and L.A.

    That's scary...because we don't know what Sen. Lowenthal is "negotiating" (i.e. prepared to give up) after he's already given up his "no net increase" bill.

    The Ports want basically everything. They seek container fee revenue for more infrastructure channeled through a local government entity (perhaps the Ports). In addition, they want Port actions "incentivized" not "penalized" with continued container fee dollars even if the Ports don't deliver pollution reductions they advertised in their "Clean Air Action Plan."

    An April 2007 Port of LB letter to Senator Lowenthal indicates that parts of the LB/L.A. Ports' "Clean Air Action Plan" may not be achievable as originally planned. The Port cites scenarios beyond its control...but it continues racing at breakneck speed to expand its capacity to inflict more impacts.

    The Ports want SB 974's container fee money to help them replace the Gerald Desmond bridge with a higher version, a project that will let even larger container ships deposit even larger container loads in LB. Some of those additional containers will end up on trucks on expanded 47, 103 and 710 freeways. The rest will go by rail, not using environmentally friendly on-dock loading but with neighborhood-unfriendly "near dock" facilities...meaning truck AND train impacts.

    Extinction of certain population centers and neighborhoods may be inevitable...and the West and North sides of Long Beach may be at the top of the Port capacity-expansion hit list.

    In October 2006, I spoke at an informational hearing chaired by Senator Lowenthal concerning the November 2006 infrastructure bond (Prop 1-B). Senator Lowenthal supported the bond. I opposed it, arguing that (among other things) the measure didn't include pollution protections.

    Voters passed the bond...and the result isn't good for us. It gives the Ports new infrastructure with permanent impacts while leaving us with follow-up mitigation bills in the legislature, which face an uncertain future if and when they reach the Governor's desk.

    Likewise, SB 974 isn't a good deal for us. It guarantees the Ports new infrastructure with permanent impacts while leaving us with "mitigation" money but no guarantee the net result will be less pollution or even "no net increase."

    And if Senator Lowenthal "negotiates" changes in the bill that the Ports want, SB 974 won't even hold the Ports to their own words in their "Clean Air" plan.

    We are moving in the wrong direction...but there are a few bright lights.

    The California Taxpayers Association recently testified that it believes SB 974 violates Prop 13 (requiring a 2/3 vote) and also cited federal issues as possible grounds for court challenges.

    And the emerging Baja Ports may provide easier access for Pacific Rim goods which case the marketplace (more powerful than elected or appointed officials) may reduce pressure for expansion.

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