(July 18, 2005, updated July 19) -- In an intense legislative advocacy mission to Washington, DC focusing on two pieces of national legislation with major local and regional implications, a LB advocacy team that included Councilman Frank Colonna (chair of the City Council's Federal Legislation and Environmental Affairs Committee), City Attorney Robert Shannon, Tom Modica (Manager of Gov't Affairs) and Carl Kemp (Port of LB Community Affairs/Gov't Relations Dir.) met today (July 18) with Capitol Hill staffers involved in the crucial process of putting the bills in final form.
City Attorney Shannon said the meetings were substantive and, he hopes, productive. "These weren't just 'nice to see you meetings,' Mr. Shannon said.
The LB delegation met with Counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee (on the Energy bill) and staff for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (on the Transportation bill). House and Senate-passed versions of both bills are now in House-Senate conference committees to resolve differences in the two bills and put their language in final form for passage by the full House and Senate.
The meeting with the House Transportation/Infrastructure Committee staff was particularly important, City Attorney Shannon said. It included the Committee's Majority Staff Director, Chief Counsel plus three additional staffers -- individuals who serve as staff to the House members who actually sit on the Transportation bill's conference committee. The LB delegation's meeting with that group dealt with LB's concerns on both the Transportation bill and the Energy bill.
"It was an in-depth conversation, a very significant meeting," City Attorney Shannon said.
The discussion included inserting legislative language that would take into account the need for heightened state and local scrutiny for proposed LNG sites which constitute potential terrorist threats. "We emphasized the solid, common sense need in those limited situations where the site is a potential terrorist target and state and local scrutiny is needed," City Attorney Shannon said.
He added, "Our suggestion was favorably received by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff [who deal with Ports]. They agreed to forward a provision that would take our concerns into account to the Energy and Commerce Committee [dealing with the Energy bill]."
City Attorney Shannon said he doesn't know if such a provision will end up in the final Energy bill "but they listened to us and worked with us agreed to submit a proposal that includes Ports in the category of sites [needing state and local scrutiny]. They approved the language because it deals directly with Ports," City Attorney Shannon said.
"The House Transportation/Infrastructure Committee staff will now hand it off to the Energy Committee staff to with Energy bill Conferees...and it has their blessing," he added.
City Attorney Shannon also indicated that Capitol Hill staffers acknowledged that Energy bill sections deeming LNG projects approved if state-law proceedings extend beyond federal deadlines are -- as Mr. Shannon explicitly warned the Council -- designed to discourage and basically circumvent use of state laws like the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), perceived by federal officialdom as footdragging.
The LB delegation also met with the legislative director for Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV), whose district includes the Port of LB, and the legislative assistant for Senator Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) and the legislative director for Cong. Ed Markey (D., MA). Cong. Markey has frequently criticized a Boston area LNG facility, built in the 1970s, which Boston's Mayor has called a post-9/11 security risk.
On the Transportation bill, the firm of Smith, Esposito & Lyerly, which provides DC legislative advocacy services for the Port of LB and the City of Long Beach under separate contracts, submitted a one page document on behalf of the Mayor and the LB Board of Harbor Commissioners entitled "Why failing to include I-710/Desmond Bridge in 2005 surface transportation reauthorization would be a highly visible, National economic oversight of The Congress." It states:
America's largest seaport complex can't continue to handle 42% of all U.S. international trade value without the I-710/Desmond, Federal right-of-way project, which by itself, must move 18%.
International trade is almost 1/3 of Gross Domestic Product.
And, only the new project bridge will accommodate the new TEU 10,000, world-class ships, scheduled to enter the U.S. at Long Beach in 2011.
[typed not signed] Long Beach Mayor, Beverly O'Neill and
Long Beach Harbor Commissioners,
Elvord, Hancock, Walter, Hankla and Cordero
In an email this morning (July 19) to PoLB Executive Director Richard Steinke, Port staffers Gus Hein, Carl Kemp, Mayoral Chief of Staff Kathy Wieder, City Manager Jerry Miller, Councilman Frank Colonna and City Attorney Robert Shannon, the senior member of the DC advocacy firm, E. Del Smith, advised:
"This last minute Long Beach project reinforcement statement was hand Delivered yesterday, July 18, to strategic TEA-21 [Transportation bill] conferees, House and Senate, and by a delegation of Frank Colonna, Bob Shannon, Tom Modica, Carl Kemp, Del Smith and RJ Lyerly to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Staff Director and Chairman of the Committee who are meeting as this is being transmitted to decide projects of national significance House recommendation for the ongoing conference."
After traveling to DC on Sunday (July 17) and spending a full day on Capitol Hill on Monday (July 18), Messrs. Colonna, Shannon, Modica and Kemp boarded a plane to return to CA the same night.