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    AQMD Board Hears Concerns From Local Enviro Over Sen. Lowenthal's "Port Investment" Bill; AQMD Backs It With Modest Amendments, Remains Silent On Senator's Failure To Reintroduce "No Net Increase" In Pollution Bill

    (April 8, 2007) -- South Coast Air Quality Management District management, staff and governing board members were publicly silent at their most recent meeting (held in Riverside) regarding the refusal of State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) to reintroduce legislation (opposed by industry interests) to require and enforce "no net increase" in port-related air pollution.

    However boardmembers heard concerns voiced by local environmentalist Tom Politeo regarding Sen. Lowenthal's "Port Investment" bill. Mr. Politeo's testimony follows concerns expressed by San Pedro area neighborhood advocate Janet Gunter and LB neighborhood advocate Bry Myown, who've previously expressed concerns about Senator Lowenthal's "Port Investment" bill as well as his failure to reintroduce "no net increase" legislation (which he had publicly indicated he would reintroduce as recently as November 2006).

    "No net increase" legislation has been a part of legislation supported by the AQMD, the City of Long Beach, clean air and health advocacy groups for a number of year. In 2006, a no net increase bill (SB 764) by Senator Lowenthal was killed (blocked in committee) by Assembly Democrat leaders. Two years earlier, no net increase legislation by then-Assemblyman Lowenthal cleared the legislature but was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The legislation was opposed by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce, the CA Chamber of Commerce and other industry interests. The Port of LB opposed the 2004 bill (putting it at odds with the LB City Council), then stayed publicly neutral on the 2005-06 bill (which was opposed by the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" in which the Ports of LB and L.A. are the two largest dues paying members).

    At the April 6 meeting held in Riverside, veteran environmentalist Tom Politeo voiced specific concerns in his individual capacity (not as head of Sierra Club's Harbor Vision Task Foce) regarding Senator Lowenthal's Port Investment" bill.
    AQMD April 6/07 meet
    Webcast screen save:

    Mr. Politeo told AQMD's governing board that he believes Sen. Lowenthal's bill needs a "strong edit" and as written could end up making matters worse for residents.

    Mr. Politeo said he was "distressed to see the bill separate mitigation funds from construction funds" and didn't "want to see this bill funding on or offramps for freeways to separate car traffic from truck traffic. This is going to up-the-capacity of trucks being able to reach the freeways. It's going to force the issue of having to expand freeways, and this gives the possibility that we [government agencies] can use this money to fund all the ramp work for something like the I-710 truck freeway..."

    As written, the legislation proposes to use revenue from container fees to fund infrastructure projects that would increase goods movement efficiency and offers certain mitigation measures...but without any statutory, legally enforceable mechanism to ensure net pollution doesn't increase beyond current levels (making the net result even worse for residents than at present).

    Mr. Politeo added that without some form of rail electrification, eliminating grade crossings between San Pedro Bay and the inland valleys is "really asking for making the situation a lot worse because of all the capacity increases" and if we "increase all this on-land capacity, bring in more ships, [the area could] be worse off, particularly in the San Pedro Bay area..."

    AQMD's governing board went on record supporting SB 974 with relatively modest amendments. posts below extended portions of Mr. Politeo's testimony below.

    Mr. Politeo: ..We're fine with the container bill or "Port Investment" bill in concept but we'd like to see a lot of changes in this bill...

    First, we're distressed to see the bill separate mitigation funds from construction funds. This can lead you into a line of separated thinking that doesn't bring you to think about the very best solutions...

    We don't want to see this bill funding on or offramps for freeways to separate car traffic from truck traffic. This is going to up-the-capacity of trucks being able to reach the freeways. It's going to force the issue of having to expand freeways. And this gives the possibility that we [government agencies] can use this money to fund all the ramp work for something like the I-710 truck freeway, and we know that there's a lot of planning in the process at SCAG [Southern CA Ass'n of Governments] and other levels to try and build these kinds of truck-freeways.

    We are concerned about eliminating all the grade crossing between San Pedro Bay and the inland valleys. We'd love to see this happen, but it will up-rail capacity five to ten times, and if that happens without some form of electrification [of railroads], without dealing with issues of noise, without dealing with issues of sprawl, we're really asking for making the situation a lot worse because of all the capacity increases.

    The bill talks briefly about ships, but it doesn't really get into anything about how anybody would really set up to do anything with ships, and we'd like to see something in that regard to happen in this bill, because otherwise we can increase all this on-land capacity, bring in more ships and be worse off, particularly in the San Pedro Bay area because we've got all these ships spewing their 20,000 parts per million bunker fuel, except maybe for Maersk.

    This bill needs to be really specifically look at issues like CO2, noise and sprawl as part of its main text because we know these things are very important now, and these are the kinds of changes we'd like to see happen with respect to this bill. I know that you've got some amendments that have been offered and we're pleased to see those being offered.

    Mr. Politeo also urged AQMD staff to attend an upcoming meeting with the Port of L.A. on rail electrification issues.

    AQMD Board chair Dr. William Burke thanked Mr. Politeo, said staff would note his concerns...and the Board moved on without publicly addressing them.

    Instead, the AQMD board adopted the recommendations of AQMD staff and the AQMD's legislative commitee which discussed pending state bills on March 9. As recorded in AQMD's staff report, the committee meeting dealt with Sen. Lowenthal's "Port Investment" bill as follows:

    Peter Greenwald, Senior Policy Advisor provided the presentation on SB 974 as introduced February 23, 2007. Please refer to Attachment 2, AB 974 for AQMD staff analysis. Mr. Greenwald reported that staff is recommending a support in concept position.

    Dr. Wallerstein said that staff is suggesting a 7-member committee type of approach for the mitigation monies received similar to the MSRC model, so that AQMD will have better input in terms of expenditures of these funds. Board member Wilson said that an MSRC approach does a better job of addressing our issues.

    Chair Carney expressed concern about creating another committee with members who may not have previous experience with the CARB’s or the Ports plans for cleanup. Dr. Wallerstein suggested, and Chair Carney agreed, with tying the implementation of this bill with the 2007 AQMP, which includes the other plans.

    After a brief discussion, the committee agreed with staff’s recommended amendments to the bill, but requested that the distributions from the Southern California Port Mitigation Relief Fund should be directed by a 4-member committee, consisting of a Board-level or Commission-level member from each of the following: Port of LA, Port of Long Beach, CARB, and AQMD. The Legislative Committee recommended to SUPPORT SB 974 WITH AMENDMENTS.

    AQMD April 6/07 meet
    Webcast screen save:

    AQMD's legislation committee includes boardmember (and LB Councilmember) Tonia Reyes Uranga...who wasn't present at the March 9 AQMD legislation committee meeting as she was in transit to Washington, D.C.

    At the April 6 AQMD board meeting, boardmember Reyes Uranga remained silent during discussion of SB 974 and backed the recommendation of the AQMD's legislation committee.

    Boardmember/Councilwoman Reyes Uranga also chose not to raise the issue of Senator Lowenthal's failure to reintroduce "no net increase" legislation in 2007. .

    Boardmember Reyes Uranga voted with the majority of the AQMD Board [boardmember Campbell dissenting] to support SB 974 with amendments. On March 20, the LB City Council voted to support SB 974 without amendments, relegating suggested changes to a "cover letter" to be sent to the Senator. [ coverage, click here.]

    Most of the time spent during the April 6 AQMD board meeting on state legislation concerned a different bill by another lawmaker...which proposed changing the membership of the AQMD governing board.

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