(April 5, 2005) -- A closed-watched bill by state Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) prescribing "no net increase" in air pollution from the Ports of LB and L.A. has cleared the state Senate's Committee on Environmental Quality.
On a 6-3 vote (Dems supporting, Repubs opposed), SB 764 advanced in the legislative process.
The bill revives similar 2004 legislation by then-Assemblyman Lowenthal (AB 2042) which was supported by SCAQMD and the LB City Council but opposed by LB's Mayor-nominated, Council-approved Board of Harbor Commissioners, the CA and LB Area Chambers of Commerce and industry interests.
Last year's bill, which Lowenthal amended to ease baselines from 2001 to 2004 levels, passed the Assembly and state Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
SB 764 revives AB 2042 with its original 2001 pollution baseline, prescribing attainment by Jan. 1, 2008.
State Senator Lowenthal told the Committee (which he chairs), "Since last year's veto, there's been a tremendous amount of activity, in part driven by the Governor, because the Governor said [paraphrase] 'find out ways of doing this.'...He said [paraphrase] 'I support the concept but how are you going to get there?' Well, they're showing us [in L.A.] how we can get there. I'm saying that this is a smart-growth measure. This is not a no-growth measure."
Speaking extemporaneously, state Senator Lowenthal continued:
In response to an off-mike comment, Senator Lowenthal added, "That's the way I feel. I'm sticking with it."
Residents impacted by "goods movement" related air pollution from the City of Commerce, along with Wilmington area activist Jesse Marquez (Coalition for a Safe Environment) and the Executive Officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Barry Wallerstein, D. Env., journeyed to Sacramento to testify in support of SB 764.
Dr. Wallerstein told the Committee bluntly, "This is one of the most important measures the legislature could take this year to improve air quality in southern California."
A state Senate legislative analysis for the April 4 Committee hearing listed the bill's supporters as including the American Lung Association, CA League of Conservation Voters, CA Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Coalition for Clean Air and Planning and Conservation League. Also testifying in support in person, reps from the Natural Resources Defense Council, CA Air Pollution Control Officers Association ("critical that we make progress in these areas, urge your yes vote on the bill"); Sierra Club of CA.
Opponents were listed in the analysis as including APM Terminals, CA Chamber of Commerce, CA Trade Coalition, Hanjin Shipping Company, Ltd., MOL (America) Inc., Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) and Western States Petroleum Association
Testifying in person in opposition, a rep for the CA Trade Coalition stated in part: "The CA Trade Coalition is a coalition of key businesses that have a stake in the goods movement process in CA and the nation. We are opposed to the measure. We recognize that are emissions issues related to the ports. However SB 764 while being well-intentioned we think is misguided and is potentially a growth-limiting or a no-growth measure. We would direct the ARB to continue to work with the ports who are landlords and respond to growth, they don't control the growth, and work with the ports who have already implemented many measures to control emissions that take place there."
Also testifying in person in opposition, a rep for the Associated General Contractors of CA: "We're also a member of the same coalition...I represent the dozen or so contractors that work almost exclusively at the port...Our concern is while the intent of the bill is laudable, its effect is basically to shut down construction and expansion of the Port, putting my contractors basically out of work and requiring them to lay off their employees...You look at the air quality issues; who looks at the job and economic impact that this bill brings?"
State Senator Shiela Kuehl (D., WLA) later responded, "If we do economic impacts ever about jobs etc., we should also do health care impacts."
Testifying in person, a PMSA rep said, "We do support the goal of No Net Increase at the Ports. However, we can not support holding the Port authorities liable for the emission sources that are beyond their control." PMSA said it's working with the L.A. No Net Increase Task Force "to actually address the sources as opposed to just essentially putting a cap on them."
L.A. Mayor James Hahn established a No Net Increase Task Force now in the final stages of presenting 71 options for reducing emissions in hopes of attaining a 2001 level by perhaps 2010. Apart from occasional observations by staff, LB's Port declined to take part in the L.A. group's proceedings. Instead, the PoLB has adopted a "Green Port" policy that does not commit to No Net Increase.
Although the LB City Council unanimously endorsed last year's legislation, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill expressed misgivings about AB 2042's timeline when asked in fall 2004 if Gov. Schwarzenegger should sign the bill (which he ultimately vetoed).
On March 22, 2005, LB Councilmembers voted (7-1, Gabelich dissenting) to support the PoLB's Green Port policy (even without a Port commitment to No Net Increase) but a number of Councilmembers signaled that they want to reiterate their previously-voiced support for No Net Increase. Councilman Dan Baker said publicly that he plans to bring forward a Council resolution supporting state Senator Lowenthal's SB 764 in the coming weeks.
And as first reported yesterday by LBReport.com, incumbent Harbor Commissioner John Calhoun will exit his post at the end of his term in late June 2005...requiring Mayor O'Neill to send the Council a new Harbor Commission appointee.
The Mayor's most recent Harbor Commission appointees -- retired City Manager/retired ACTA CEO James Hankla and attorney Mario Cordero -- were not asked any questions by the Council committee or the full Council...both of which voted unanimously to approve them.