(Aug. 30, 2007) -- In a development closely watched by environmental/health and port/industry groups -- and first reported this morning (Aug. 30) within minutes on LBReport.com's front page (www.lbreport.com) -- the Assembly Appropriations Committee has advanced SB 974 (container fee/"port investment" bill by Sen. Alan Lowenthal) to the Assembly floor "with amendments to specify that local authorities develop a project list that allows rail related highway projects and diesel retrofit projects to be funded with fee revenue" [words of Ass'y committee chair Mark Leno (D., SF)].
Approval was on a Committee party-line vote (standard "B roll-call": Dems voting yes, Repubs voting no).
Tom Modica, LB City Hall's Manager of Gov't Affairs, tells LBReport.com that Sen. Lowenthal's office says the "rail related highway projects" verbiage means rebuilding the Desmond Bridge [letting larger container ships into LB harbor] will not qualify for funding using container fee revenue under SB 974.
Mr. Modica adds that as of this afternoon (Aug. 30), Sen. Lowenthal's office hadn't yet provided LB City Hall with the latest amended text [apparently it's still in the committee]...and the City of LB is awaiting the actual test before making specific comments.
Mr. Modica said the amended bill also contains verbiage that substitutes the CA Air Resources Board's Clean Air Plan for the Ports' of LB/L.A. "Clean Air Action Plan" as a measurement for progress under which the Ports would continue to receive container fee revenue under the bill.
Other LB officials [speaking off the record for now] have expressed concern to LBReport.com that the amended bill language might allow using container fee revenue to fund the "Southern CA Int'l Gateway Project" [SCIG], a controversial proposed intermodal [truck to train] container transfer facility that would result in sending additional truck traffic through WLB. The SCIG project is opposed by WLB residents but is supported by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce.
In seeking support for SB 974 from the LB City Council in March, Sen. Lowenthal said in a written statement that SB 974 didn't mention the SCIG project...and added that he doesn't support the SCIG. The City Council went on to vote to put the City on record supporting SB 974 before its text was finalized.
In April, LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners then voted to support SB 974 if amended to allow container fee revenue to fund the Desmond bridge project. The Port also sought to de-link its access to container fee revenue from complaince with the Ports' "Clean Air Action Plan" and also sought a local role on projects to receive funding.
A number of veteran LB/San Pedro area activists have been lukewarm toward the bill...or opposed to it...but several non-LB-area groups (Coalition for Clean Air, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Lung Ass'n of CA) supported SB 974 (while opposing amendments that included funding for the Desmond bridge project).
Coalition for Clean Air spokeswoman Annette Kondo told LBReport.com today: "The Coalition for Clean Air is very pleased that this bill - which can improve the air for all Californians - is on its way to the full Assembly.and apparently also encountered opposition from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Major caveat: the latest amended bill text [when release in the coming days] may not be the final text; efforts may be made to amend the bill on the Assembly floor.
A report published today (Aug. 30) on www.latimes.com indicates that L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has withheld his support for SB 974 unless it does include funding for the Desmond bridge project. What ulimately takes place when the bill reaches the Assembly floor in September remains to be seen.
The measure's principal Assembly co-author is Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D., South Gate)...and co-authors include LB Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D., LB).
In April and through the summer months, L.A. port-area City Councilwoman Janice Hahn advanced an L.A. City Council resolution to support the bill if amended to include the Port-desired amendments. Amid opposition from environmental groups to funding the Desmond bridge project, and opposition from industry interests to the entire bill, the L.A. resolution never gained the consensus sought by Councilwoman Hahn and wasn't advanced to the full L.A. City Council for final passage.
On today's (Aug. 30) passage of the bill from the Assembly Appropriations Committee, L.A. Councilwoman Hahn released the following statement:
A container bill to clean up the air and improve congestion in and around our ports just makes sense. Every container that enters or leaves our port represents commerce, but it also represents air pollution and traffic congestion. Shipping industry should be paying to mitigate these impacts. There are a number of concerns about how the money is spent and I have been trying to get everyone, including the business community and the Coalition for Clean Air, to agree on how we can improve the bill and make it better for Los Angeles. One thing we can all agree on is that it is imperative that we get local control of how the money is spent in Southern California.
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