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Historic Moment On LB Port Pollution:

  • Council Votes 8-0 To Support Lowenthal Anti Idling Truck Bill (AB 2650)
  • Elected Councilmembers Say "Yes" After Non-Elected Harbor Commissioners Say "No"

    We provide transcript excerpts below

    (August 7, 2002) -- Indicating a changed attitude in what LB elected officials now expect from their City's Port and those who use it, the LB City Council has voted unanimously to support a bill by LB area Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal that seeks to reduce diesel emissions by limiting the allowable time trucks can idle in port terminals to 30 minutes.

    The dramatic August 6 Council vote rejected arguments from Port staff and Port tenants who called the bill unfair and said they favored a more comprehensive approach to pollution.

    On August 5, City Hall appointed (Mayor selected, Council approved) Harbor Commissioners voted to oppose the Lowenthal bill as currently written, making LB's Port the first public agency to do so.

    On August 6, the City Council did not become the second. After nearly two hours of public testimony, the Council voted 8-0 (Kell absent, announced earlier she would attend "Nat'l Night Out" anti-crime event in ELB) to support the Lowenthal bill. Mayor O'Neill was absent for the entire meeting; Vice Mayor Colonna presided.

    How the Council resolution and dramatic vote came about is a story in itself.

    In July, 2d district neighborhood activist Bry Myown mentioned during testimony on a City Hall "ethics commission" report that LB's Port was moving to oppose the Lowenthal anti-pollution bill. She chided City Hall for not supporting the Lowenthal bill when the Council had publicly voted to support state legislation "that improves the quality of air in the City of Long Beach by reducing particulate matter."

    Ms. Myown's public needling got the attention of Port area Councilmembers Dan Baker and Bonnie Lowenthal. In a politically gutsy move, Baker and Lowenthal agendized a supportive resolution for AB 2650 for the Council's August 6 meeting. This charted a collision course with the Port, which had agendized action on an opposition letter for the Harbor Commission's August 5 meeting.

    AB 2650 faces a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee on August 7.

    At the August 6 Council meeting, mothers and their children (some speaking in Spanish), environmentalists, neighborhood activists and homeowners testified in favor of Lowenthal's bill, and a Port staffer and Port terminal operators spoke in opposition. We provide transcript excerpts below.

    A dramatic moment came when a representative of the South Coast Air Quality Management District urged the Council to support the Lowenthal bill, drawing considerable applause, and added that the Board had voted its support for AB 2650.

    A staffer in Assemblyman Lowenthal's LB office read a statement from the former LB Councilman detailing the health and human impacts of diesel pollution.

    AB 2650 marks the second time in recent years that Assemblyman Lowenthal -- whose district includes the Port and Port impacted neighborhoods -- has authored legislation targeting port related pollution (from LB and L.A.). He previously authored and piloted to passage a bill requiring the enclosure of previously open air petroleum coke piles at the ports, a sore point with area residents for years.

    AB 2650 is more ambitious and politically gutsy, tackling a bigger issue -- diesel pollution -- in a way unprecedented for a LB Port area state legislator. Lowenthal's bill applies a market based approach, effectively creating a cost for pollution by fining terminal operators if trucks can't load or unload cargo without waiting in long lines for hours. AB 2650 passed the Assembly on a bipartisan 66-7 vote. On August 7, it goes before the Senate Local Government Committee.

    We provide links to:

  • The City Council resolution supporting AB 2650;

  • The text of AB 2650 (as most recently amended June 27) and

  • A legislative analysis by the Senate Local Government Committee, which will hear the bill on August 7.

    Some activists urged the Council to specify that it supports AB 2650 in its present form without amendments, but Councilmembers did not do so. (As previously reported by, Harbor Commissioners have indicated they want to meet with Assemblyman Lowenthal in hopes of amending the bill.)

    [Transcript excerpts follow]

    7th dist. Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga

    ...I would have loved to have be an author on this resolution as well...I know that everyone that lives in not only the downtown and west Long Beach area but really in the whole city, they're affected by this...I'm a little disappointed in the Harbor Commission's decision [applause] and that it is the Long Beach Harbor Commission...I would think that perhaps those people who sit there really need to take a look at the decisions that they make and the effects of their decisions on the community...[Councilwoman Lowenthal amended her motion to add Reyes-Uranga as one of the co-sponsors.]

    Bry Myown

    ...Collectively, your constituents are more adversely affected by Port activities than any other group of residents in the state of California and we will be the most positively affected by AB 2650.

    It's very rare that a legislator introduces a bill without support from his underlying governments and I was frankly embarrassed that your former colleague had to carry this all the way through an Assembly floor vote without your endorsement, because it's so thoroughly consistent with the Legislation and Environmental Affairs agenda that you've unanimously adopted, that puzzled me and I'm very grateful to you for an opportunity to correct that this evening.

    I would ask you to amend your resolution and strengthen it by endorsing the bill as written and without amendments...

    I'm also particularly grateful you're taking this action tonight because...your Harbor Commissioners took a formal vote opposing AB 2650. They're the only affected port to do so and the only public agency to have done so. I would like to be able to say, as they did, that I support their noble intentions but it seems they favor regulating polluters outside of their jurisdiction.

    I believe the [City] Charter gives them jurisdiction only over the Harbor Dept...and a duty to maintain operations with a special regard for public safety. So, I think that your statement tonight is particularly important.

    And if this were a hearing on an alcohol or a business license, I believe that you would find the business and the landlord responsible for the nuisances generated by their patrons.

    Besides believing that your Commissioners acted in excess of their authority, I want to point out that they certainly acted in opposition to your legislative agenda and I believe some Commissioners and some staff did so before the Commission held any public deliberations. This also [previously] occurred with [AQMD] rule 1158.

    And as we recently learned, diesel emissions are only one way port operations affect our safety. We learned on Sept. 11 that we're terribly vulnerable and I appreciate our Mayor's legislative advocacy on our behalf in that regard, but I'd hate to think that your appointees are working the other side of the street in a mistaken belief that their tenants' concerns are more important than ours.

    So I believe tonight's vote is a real defining moment in your history with your Port. Many people believe that it's independently governed, and I would remind you that you actually control their operations through your annual adoption of their budget. As you enter your budget deliberation cycle, I would ask you to remove any funds that support their legislative advocacy.

    And I would also remind you that any Commissioner can be removed by you at any time without reason, so I urge you to please disappoint them as they have so profoundly disappointed us.

    Doug Korthof

    ...This is a market incentive bill. It allows the people who run the terminals to find the solution themselves. It doesn't impose micromanagement...

    Robert Lamond

    ...I worked in the Harbor area for a good many years...I sympathize with the Port operators having to come to grips with this, but it's past due. They've got to take some action and start getting control of the situation, so I hope you will support the resolution.

    Don Wylie

    ...I'm the Managing Director of Maritime Services at the Port of Long Beach...I hope it goes without saying that the Port of Long Beach is in favor of clean air...We don't really dispute some of the evidence that's been presented. We like clean air as much as anyone, and I'm here to proudly represent the Port and its record of environmental stewardship...

    ...The important thing to remember here is that pollution, diesel emissions, come from trucks. They don't necessarily come from the terminal operators...

    The solution to this complex problem lies not in penalizing one group of stakeholders. The solution is only going to be realized through the collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders. This bill as currently written inhibits that collaborative effort. We believe that if this bill passes, it will add millions of dollars in unnecessary costs, prompt extensive and costly litigation and fail to solve any of the problems it purports to address, and this is the reason the Harbor Commission voted to oppose AB 2650 yesterday.

    Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

    ...Is the Port run by the Harbor Commissioners or the tenants? Is it about the tenants or about the people?...

    ...I think that we can do better, and I think as people we should expect more. I told the Harbor Commissioners yesterday I thought it was great that they gave money to [local service organizations]. I noticed they didn't give money for Albuterol [an asthma inhaler], they didn't give money for a free medical clinic, and they sure as hell don't want to pay any death claims.

    Don May

    ...Diesel emissions...[are] the third leading cause of death in the United States and the County of Los Angeles and the city...[T]wice the number of people die every year [from diesel emissions] from gunshots, as from automobiles. This is one [where] there are stacks of bodies. This is a preventable death...

    ..One third of particulates comes from ships out in the harbors, L.A., Long Beach. Another third comes out of Port related traffic, and that means our share from Long Beach, is about a third. That means a couple of thousand people, concentrated in areas of poverty, areas of color, sacrificing the young, the old, the impaired, those who can't afford care. I wish all of you had been last Tuesday at the workshop of the AQMD when we had, this is in Wilmington, where we had woman after woman after woman standing up, talking about how their child choked to death in their arms...Talking about all the other medical problems that have been visited upon them.

    These are not just numbers. These are individuals who are dying. This [bill] is something that we can do right now...

    Henry Hogo [sp?]

    ...I'm the assistant deputy executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and on behalf of the AQMD, I am here tonight to urge your adoption of the resolution in support of AB 2650. [applause] AB 2650 will play an important role in addressing the air quality issues that face the southbay region, and as such our governing Board on Friday adopted a support position on [AB] 2650...

    Tim Parker

    ...representing the Steamship Association of Southern California. Every marine terminal operator is represented here tonight. They're standing behind me and I hope you take the time to hear them. They're all concerned about pollution...

    ...The problem is that the bill does not go far enough. Despite its stated intentions to reduce air pollution and truck congestion in port communities, AB 2650 is fundamentally unfairly punitive and misdirected and ultimately ineffective.

    Port terminals don't cause pollution; trucks do. To penalize terminals, which are basically gateways for commerce, for the air pollution emitted by idling trucks, certainly does not tackle the root cause of the problem...The changes we need to make must take a larger focus...

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