State Senator Alan Lowenthal Tells Ports of LB/L.A. Their Draft Clean Air Action Plan Is Laudable...But Needs Container Fee For Revenue (SB 760) And Statutory Teeth For Enforcement (SB 764)
(July 13, 2006) -- State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) has commended the Ports of LB and L.A. for an ambitious draft Clean Air Action Plan but said the Plan lacks needed revenue from a container fee (SB 760) and statutory teeth for enforcement (SB 764).
"[W]hat we're really saying is that if the state and the public, the people here, are going to pay almost a billion dollars out of public funds, then the private sector which benefits from the use of this infrastructure must be a full financial partner in the implementation of the Clean Air Action Plan in order for it to be successfully implemented," Senator Lowenthal said at a July 12 public hearing on the Ports' draft Clean Air Action Plan held at LB City Hall (one of four public input sessions regionally).
Sen. Lowenthal addressed a panel chaired by Port of LB Planning Director Dr. Robert Kanter, PoLA's Ralph Eppy and representatives of U.S. EPA, CA Air Resources Board and South Coast AQMD (agencies which assisted the Ports in developing the draft plan).
Speaking in focused, legislative terms without notes, Sen. Lowenthal said, "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 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."
His comments drew no immediate response from Port officials...but were supported by LB City Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich and a representative of the Coalition for Clean Air, all of whom attending the hearing.
SB 760 and 764 are being advanced by Sen. Lowenthal amid continuing opposition from some industry interests. The CA Ass'n of Port Authorities, in which the Ports of LB and L.A. are both members, recently testified against SB 764 while the Port of LB has told the City Council that it is neutral on the bill (which deals only with the Ports of LB and L.A.)
SB 764, which is supported by the City of LB by explicit City Council directive, sets baseline levels for certain pollutants (generated in the past) with attainment due by 2010. Sen. Lowenthal has called the bill the most important he's introduced in his nearly eight years in the state legislature. A 2004 version cleared the Assembly and State Senate...only to be vetoed by CA Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
LBReport.com posts Sen. Lowenthal's testimony verbatim below.
Councilwoman Gabelich and Councilman Patrick O' Donnell both attended the July 12 public hearing and commended Senator Lowenthal from the podium for his position.
Our transcript of Senator Lowenthal's testimony is unofficial, prepared by us. He spoke extemporaneously:
Sen. Lowenthal: First, I want to commend both the Ports for proposing a Clean Air Action Plan that's based upon an operating principle that clean air is not an option but a necessity, and I really want to compliment [the Ports].
Our region pays a significant health care cost for funneling well over a third of our nation's imported goods through these Ports and while I've been personally working on issues of clean air in our region for over fifteen years as an elected official, I'm excited to see within the last few years others join me.
But I'd like to make some comments that I think can strengthen what we have, and I think this is a great first step. The first issue is, how will the Clean Air Action Plan be realistically funded, that's the first issue. In other words, show me the money. I want to know where the money is and what's specific.
You know, while you showed us what the Ports will pay, and the AQMD, which is about $400 million, I believe in the report itself, to reach the goals that you've said, the estimated amounts are somewhat in excess of, or around, or slightly in excess of about $2 billion to reach the overall goals that you have said. As you know, you are counting on a lot of the bond, and as a person who worked on the bond, to write the bond, I would make sure that within the bond that the first call on the air quality, the $1 billion in air quality improvements that are related to goods movement, that the first call be on those projects that have significant match of funds, that there must be a match that's built in to it.
So the bond provides for a billion dollars for air quality improvements for goods movement, let's say where, and in estimates in the papers and press, the Ports are asking for, would like to see as much as $800 million. Well, we're still talking about, we're short, almost $800 million, it's almost between $800 [million] and a billion. And if we take the ARB which has more ambitious goals, we could be short $4-$5 billion, is really what we're talking about what the Air Board estimates to really deal with a much more comprehensive, not just the Port but the entire system of goods movement, we're talking about potentially an excess of $6 billion.
So, what we're really saying is that if the state and the public, the people here, are going to pay almost a billion dollars out of public funds, then the private sector which benefits from the use of this infrastructure must be a full financial partner in the implementation of the Clean Air Action Plan in order for it to be successfully implemented, and if we don't have these sources of money coming in, we have some serious issues.
I have a bill, one of the bills that I'm proposing and that I would like to see supported, which incorporates industry in every level of the process. As our partner, they will help to identify some of these key air pollution projects but they will also pay for a part of that cost. SB 760 calls for a container fee to pay for the infrastructure improvements, port security and air quality. It is a major step forward. If we're really sincere about cleaning up our air, we must have everyone come to the table and pay, and SB 760 is an important first step in ensuring that there's industry participation in the funding of this to be successful.
Because what happens if the bond fails? Because this is predicated, what we've heard, on port expansion, port development. If the bond fails, God forbid, because I'm definitely out there encouraging everybody to support the bond, but if it fails, what funding in addition with this growth, besides the Ports' $400 million, are we going to have? We need the industry also to participate, because with only $400 million, pollution will increase. Let's be clear. We're not going to reduce the pollution if we have these limited resources. And the Ports are doing their share. It is not to penalize the Ports. They can't do it alone.
And so for that too, SB 760 remains a viable source of funding for this Action Plan. It's a necessity. It's based upon the assumption that taxpayers must pay their fair share but so does the industry have to pay and we have to have that clearly defined.
The other issue is we have these goals [in the Clean Air Action Plan] and we have measures, but how do we build in accountability to this. While tariffs, incentives, lease requirements
are really what the Ports can do, and they're very good ideas, there is no accountability in the sense that while we call for significant reductions, while the Plan calls for significant reductions in pollutants, what happens if we don't reach these goals. What happens if we don't get the funding and pollution continues and increases?
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 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.
And everyone must pay for their fair share and that we must have accountability built in.
In conclusion, I'm the chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation. I'm responsible for guiding, at least in the California Senate, the implementation of our state's transportation policy which includes maritime transportation policy, which must include what kinds of overall infrastructure and air quality needs we're going to have for the next several decades. We must have, I believe, not only the reductions that we're talking about, but within our plans an overall goal of moving towards zero-emission transportation systems and moving ultimately towards zero-emission vehicles. Without this, we will have a growing economy which is not a sustainable economy and inevitably it will fail.
And so what I urge us to do is to see this as a first step, that whatever we fund must be the steps along the way, with definable goals, for ultimately reaching us and helping us move toward zero-emission.
And I believe built into it, we must hold our feet to the fire by having SB 764 which defines a performance standard, and sets a goal and says there will be consequences and we must have the industry as a full partner right up front to do that, or else we are telling people we are going to succeed and we're not going to succeed because there's not enough resources to succeed. Thank you.
Councilwoman Gabelich was then invited to the microphone...and said that while the plan "had some great ideas and some great solutions, but I have to agree with the Senator that my concern is that we make sure that you have a way to define how we meet those goals...I think it is going to take a participation from the private sector as well..." Councilman O'Donnell said, "I think it's great that the Ports are working together to provide us clean air and a better community, and I think we really need to thank Senator Lowenthal because if it weren't be here today in my mind and this wouldn't be happening. So Senator Lowenthal, you're our hero, so thank you. [applause]...The financing, a container tax, some method to finance these improvements, is very necessary. Let's tackle that through this process as well."
That was followed by the following testimony from:
Trini Lopez, Dir. of Gov't Affairs, BNSF railways, who indicated BNSF would submit more detailed and official comments on the Clean Air Action Plan at a later date but said, "According to the California Air Resources Board and EPA, the railroads' Fleet Average Agreement will reduce average NOx emissions by 2010 from all railroad operations in the South Coast AQMD district by year 2000 levels. By the end of next year, 2007, at least 50% of the switch locomotives serving the Los Angeles region are expected to have ultra low emissions level certification by the ARB. The ARB staff recently determined that by 2010, emissions in and around one typical railyard will be reduced by about 65% from 2005 levels due to state regulations already adopted and the two recent MOUs, the one in 1998 and one last year in 05, that the railroad industry signed with the CA Air Resources Board..."
Stacy [last name unclear] said she works in a health food store near the Port of Long Beach...and has noticed "such an amazing amount of people, shocking, that have bronchitis, sinusitis, asthma, just unbelievable...I myself got lung pleurisy and I'm also a health instructor, and my MD said it was from air pollution, and I no longer can teach my exercise classes...I'm seeing a lot of my customers saying they want to move out of here because of the pollution, they're concerned about their children here, and I just want to thank you for going ahead with this project, and thank you Senator, because this really needs to move ahead..."
Ralph Pisaro with Coalition for Clean Air: "[Senator Lowenthal] is absolutely right, absolutely right to applaud you all and the other players that will attain the greenest ports in the world, we hope. And as we look at the plan, we'll also be submitting official comments but we see a lot that's good. We have questions, as does the Senator, about funding."
A little over fifty people were present in the LB Council Chamber for the second of four scheduled public input sessions. Many of those attending on July 12 were government officials or staff; we estimate between two and three dozen were residents (judging from a sign-in sheet) from LB and San Pedro, mainly observing.
A third public input session (the final one in LB) is scheduled July 19 at 7 p.m. at LB's Cedar Chavez Park, 401 Golden Ave.
Following the 30-day period for public review and input. and possible staff revisions to the Plan (as appropriate), the Boards of Harbor Commissioners at both ports will vote on whether to adopt the Clean Air Action Plan and its proposed lease requirements, tariff changes and incentives.
The 230-page Clean Air Action Plan Technical Report has been subdivided into smaller PDF files for easier downloading:
To view a PDF file (12.0 MB) of the draft of the Clean Air Action Plan Introduction, click here.
To view a PDF file of the Clean Air Action Plan Goals click here.
To view a PDF file of the Clean Air Action Plan Strategies click here.
To view a PDF of the Clean Air Action Plan Initiatives Overview click here
To view a PDF of the Clean Air Action Plan Initiatives Details click here.
To view a PDF of the Clean Air Action Plan Emissions Reductions click here
To view a PDF of the Clean Air Action Plan Budget Summary click here
To view a PDF of the Clean Air Action Plan Appendix A click here
To view the full Clean Air Action Plan press release, click here.
To view the Clean Air Action Plan Fact Sheet, click here.
For more information about the Public Outreach workshops, click here.
The Ports' Clean Air Action Plan is posted on Port of LB website www.polb.com and is accessible via the links below:
- To view a PDF file (125 KB) of the 36-page plan overview, click here.
The document is also at local libraries and the Ports' headquarters.
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