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    News / Extended Audio Coverage

    Sen. Lowenthal's Container Fee/"Port Investment" Bill Clears Ass'y Transportation Committee

    (July 10, 2007) -- Environmental groups lined up to call State Senator Alan Lowenthal's container fee/"Port investment" a clean air measure, while an official from the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority indicated he believes his entity will probably be largest beneficiary under the bill (besides the LB/L.A. Ports) as SB 974 cleared the Assembly Transportation Committee on July 9.

    Among the "yes" votes was Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D., LB) was had previously signed-on as a co-author.

    The Committee hearing may be the final Assembly policy committee action on the bill before it reaches the Assembly Appropriations Committee from which it could then head to the Assembly floor. The measure previously cleared the State Senate.

    No amendments were announced during the July 9 Committee session. No one asked, and Senator Lowenthal didn't volunteer, that the Port of LB Port of LB (through its own Harbor Comm' voted action) and the Port of L.A. (via a proposed L.A. City Council resolution) seek amendments that include letting the Ports receive continued container fee revenue even if they fail to deliver pollution reductions in the Ports' "Clean Air Action Plan."

    However when asked by Assemblyman Jose Solario (D., Anaheim) about the part of the bill that could withhold container fee revenue if the Ports don't deliver the pollution reductions, Sen. Lowenthal appeared to dig in his heels...while discussing "goals":

    Sen. Lowenthal: That's the accountability...That was placed into this after the Senate Transportation Committee held hearings on goods movement and the Director of the Port of Los Angeles, Director Geraldine Knatz said, 'you provide us with resources [and] we will meet these goals.' These are legitimate, reasonable goals and we followed the Director of the Port of Los Angeles in placing that in. We're willing to listen to others but those are reasonable goals. It did not come from us. They are the explicit goals in the San Pedro Bay Clean Air Action Plan. Those are the goals that they told us they can meet if we provide them the resources. We are providing them with the resources and now we want to have that kind of accountability. If they want other kinds, if people want other, we're willing to listen but we have not heard anything back yet.

    On April 20, LB's then-Harbor Commission President, James C. Hankla, sent a letter to Sen,. Lowenthal, cc'd to LB Mayor Bob Foster and all members of the LB City Council, which spelled out circumstances in which the Port acknowledged that it might not be able to produce the emission reductions as specified in its "Clean Air Action Plan." To view the Port of LB letter, click April 20 PoLB letter re SB 974.

    LB Mayor Bob Foster and the City Council have thus far remained publicly mum on the Port's advocacy actions.

    In March 2007, the Long Beach City Council voted 8-0 to endorse SB 974 without any conditions, effectively letting Senator Lowenthal list LB City Hall's support while he amends the bill as he pleases...and has not revisited that stance despite developments regarding the bill on several fronts.

    As previously reported by, L.A. City Councilmembers Janice Hahn and Tom LaBonge urged the City of Los Angeles to adopt what amount to those lobbying positions favored by the L.A./LB Ports via a formal City Council resolution. On July 7, the Hahn-LaBonge resolution was returned to a Council Committee on July 7 after the "Coalition for Clean Air," Natural Resources Defense Council and American Lung Ass'n/CA opposed the Port-favored changes.

    Councilwoman Hahn indicated on July 7 that she hopes to organize meetings in the coming days to try and encourage industry and environmental groups to agree to compromise verbiage to suggest to Sen. Lowenthal on the outstanding issues.

    Meanwhile, opponents continued to assert their arguments in opposition. As in a June 22 Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing, the California Taxpayers Ass'n argued that the bill as written violates Prop 13 (needs 2/3 vote) and could trigger federal litigation challenges...after which the CA Chamber of Commerce urged adopting an industry-backed solution.

    The litigation issues drew a response from Assemblywoman Karnette...who disputed a statement by an advocate from the CA Taxpayers Ass'n that a court challenge would bring matters to a halt. However the opposition stuck to her position...arguing that a court injunction could bring port-sought container fee revenue to a halt. "Frankly, they're not going to go anywhere either because there's nowhere to go," Assemblywoman Karnette commented. The opposition advocate shot back, "I suppose it would depend on what the plaintiffs asked for in the litigation. If they ask for a preliminary injunction, then there's not going to be a container tax and then there will be no money for the ports." "Well I can't see that happening," Assemblywoman Karnette replied.

    CA Chamber of Commerce advocate Jason Schmelzer amplified the opposition point: "If there is an injunction and if the bill in fact doesn't go into effect, what you would see is a lot of industry pulling back on extra-curricular, I suppose you could say, investment at the ports because they're to be facing a half-billion dollar a year liability which increases as the number of containers comes through increases..."

    Following a series of articles on describing legislative developments on the bill, the LB City Council's State Legislation Committee (chair, O'Donnell; vice chair Bonnie Lowenthal; member, Reyes Uranga) scheduled a meeting to hear a staff report and discussion of SB 974 (including "current status and recent advocacy actions.")

    July 13 is the final day for policy committees to hear and report bills. [Doing so thereafter requires a waiver of Assembly rules.] provides on-demand audio access to extended, salient portions of the July 9 Committee hearing below (digitally captured from the Assembly webcast). We've provided audio in the "streaming audio" format...and made the nearly 50 minute item a more user-friendly roughly 23:39; edits are indicated with a "whoosh" sound.

    To launch audio, click here.
    Senator Lowenthal openOpen to 1:54
    Testimony in support1:54 to 5:20
    Testimony in opposition5:22 to 7:47
    Assemblywoman Karnette colloquy with opponent7:48 to 9:02
    Add'l opponents (including CA Chamber of Commerce9:03 to 12:43
    Committee colloquy with Sen. Lowenthal12:50 to 22:24
    Add'l remarks by Ass'ywoman Karnette22:26 to 23:39

    The Committee vote to advance Sen. Lowenthal's bill to the next step in the legislative process was 8-6...the minimum number of "yes" votes to pass.

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