(February 27, 2007, updated post) -- State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) has not reintroduced a "No Net Increase" in port air pollution bill by the state Senate's Feb. 23 deadline.
At a November 2006 CSULB conference on the "True Cost of Goods Movement," Senator Lowenthal explained the importance of the bill and, under pressure during Q & A from a local activist, indicated that he planned to bring it back in 2007.
The bill was blocked in August 2006 by the Assembly Democrats' leadership after it had already cleared the State Senate. The legislation was also opposed by the CA and LB Area Chambers of Commerce and Port-related industry interests.
The No Net Increase bill sought to set baseline levels for certain pollutants with attainment by 2010. It was supported by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and by the City of Long Beach, the latter through a unanimous vote of the City Council.
[update] Responding to requests earlier in the day for comment, and to publication of this article at roughly 4:00 p.m., Senator Lowenthal's office emailed the following response from the Senator at 5:34 p.m.:
Senator Lowenthal Feb. 27 statement: While I believe the original goals of my "no net increase" bill were laudable at the time, I no longer believe it is sufficient; we need to go further than maintaining the status quo.
As Chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and as the author of the bills that will implement the goods movement and emissions improvement portion of Proposition 1B, SB 9 and SB 19, I fully intend to include accountability measures in these bills that will require reductions in all types of harmful emissions.
I felt, after long deliberation, that a re-introduction of a "no net increase" bill would set conflicting standards as we try to achieve accountable, measurable reductions in pollution related to port activities.
I remain more committed than ever to holding the ports accountable in regards to reducing harmful emissions related to goods movement.
Asked during audience Q & A at the Nov. 2006 CSULB event if he planned to bring the No Net Increase bill back in 2007, Sen. Lowenthal responded by citing reasons why the bill was important...but didn't answer the question. That prompted the questioner, LB activist Bry Myown, to rise from her chair and ask, "Are you bringing it back?..." Senator Lowenthal replied, "Of course I'm coming back [with it]" as he was interrupted by applause.
To clearly convey the context of this, LBReport.com posts audio of the exchange along with a transcript. To hear the audio in MP3 form, click here. Our transcript [unofficial, prepared by us] follows below:
Sen. Lowenthal: [previously noted that his container fee bill passed the legislature but was vetoed by the Governor while his No Net Increase bill passed the Senate but not the Assembly; audio begins in mid-sentence]...I think that these things go together. personally. There is a relationship between, if you're going to, raising resources to fix a problem and making sure that we have clearly defined standards with consequences, that is, you bring it down to a certain level, that's what No Net Increase said, and if you don't reach that level, there are consequences. And that's really what we're talking about. We cannot just have vague goals. We have to set standards and there has to be consequences to those standards. If you reach those goals, you can continue to develop. If you don't reach those goals, you cannot develop and you will not, or there'll be financial penalties. I agree completely that without standards built into statute, people can just violate those and say 'see, nice try, we'll come back next year' and there are no consequences to not reaching those standards. And that's what No Net Increase did. It said for the first time, hopefully in statute, real standards with real consequences...
Ms. Myown: Are you bringing it back? [cross-talk] ...
Sen. Lowenthal [cross-talk] : ...and I'm coming back with it.
Ms. Myown: ...[cross talk] for discussion...
Sen. Lowenthal: Of course I'm coming back [with it]...[audience cheers, applause]
In July 2006, as reported by LBReport.com, Sen. Lowenthal told a panel of representatives from the Ports of LB and L.A., federal EPA, CA Air Resources Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District that the "no net increase" bill was needed to ensure enforceable results as part of the Ports' non-binding "Clean Air Action Plan." At that time, Senator Lowenthal said:
Sen. Lowenthal: We have to build in to any of our plans, if we're investing billions of dollars, accountability. Everyone must be accountable and we must have put into statute, another bill, SB 764 [no net increase] does, we must put into statute quantifiable air quality standards which must be attained by 2010 which allows for the disbursement of these public funds, but if not attained, there must be significant financial penalties.
We cannot tolerate after 2010 any increase, we must begin to demonstrate as a first step that we're beginning to bring that pollution down. We cannot simply dole out billions of dollars and not reduce the pollution.
The No Net Increase legislation was opposed by the CA Ass'n of Port Authorities, in which the Ports of LB and L.A. are both members, and the CA Trade Coalition, in which the CA Ass'n of Port Authorities was a listed member. The Port of LB, which paid dues to the CA Ass'n of Port Authorities, said it was publicly neutral on the measure.
A 2004 version of the No Net Increase bill, which then-Assemblyman Lowenthal called the most important bill he'd introduced in all his years in Sacramento, passed the Assembly and State Senate but was opposed by the Port of Long Beach and the CA and LB Area Chamber of Commerce. It was vetoed by CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Sen. Lowenthal has separately introduced a new, substantively different version of a container fee bill after his previous container fee bill was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2006. Under what Sen. Lowenthal now calls the "Port Investment Bill" SB 974, container fee revenue would basically be banked for port-related development, transportation and infrastructure projects that the bill describes as "congestion relief and environmental mitigation." Projects qualifying for the container fee revenue would be decided by the CA Transportation Commission with disbursement of the revenue linked to plans for attainment of government-decided clean air goals.
In a press release on the "Port Investment Bill," Senator Lowenthal's office says the container fee revenue "could be used to help speed goods out of the ports more quickly as well as pay for cleaner burning vehicles and innovative strategies to reduce toxic air pollution."
Separate, detailed coverage of Sen. Lowenthal's new container fee bill is coming on LBReport.com.
Sen. Lowenthal chairs the Senate's Committee on Transportation and Housing, and its Subcommittee on CA Ports and Goods Movement.