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    Ass'yman Lowenthal's "No Increased Port Pollution" Bill Gets Teeth; CA Senate Committee Writing Language To Implement Rules If Port Polluters Don't Reach Agreement By Bill's Deadline

    (June 28, 2004) -- AB 2042 by Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) that would establish an air pollution baseline for the Ports of LB and L.A. and require that their future growth not bring LB and the L.A. air basin more pollution is being strengthened after a hearing today in the CA Senate's Committee on Environmental Quality.

    In presenting his bill, Assemblyman Lowenthal -- whose district includes the Ports of LB and L.A. and residents directly impacted by them -- told the Committee:

    "The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles operate on state tidelands and submerged lands, which means that the Ports are the stewards for these state lands and must manage them in a manner that benefits all Californians."

    Assemblyman Lowenthal added, "We see this as for the first time what we're doing is really beginning to put into statute what the Ports have said that that they can do, and that is live within a level of pollution that does not increase, no net increase in pollution..."

    Citing health concerns, Assemblyman Lowenthal said 15& of children 17 or younger have been diagnosed with asthma...double the national average. "In CA, we're abusing our children by allowing this pollution."

    And Assemblyman Lowenthal raised the specter that that the Ports of LB and L.A., which supporters frequently call an economic engine, could cost the state billions if pollution from their operations gets even worse than it is now.

    "The four county South Coast [air basin]...will lose billions of dollars -- billions -- in federal highway funds if the federal Clean Air Act standards are not met by 2010..."

    Roughly 45 minutes of Committee discussion ensued, during which Assemblyman Lowenthal said the City of Long Beach -- by a unanimous vote of its City Council -- supported the AB 2042...after which a representative of the Port of LB told the Committee that the Port of LB opposed the bill unless amended.

    The schism between two City of LB entities drew a surprised response from Senate Environment Committee chair Sen. Byron Sher (D., Stanford).

    "The Port of Long Beach is opposed [to the bill] when the City of Long Beach [is in support]?"

    Assemblyman Lowenthal responded, "The City of Long Beach [City Council]...voted unanimously to endorse the bill after the Port of Long Beach, an agency of the City, voted to oppose it.

    Senator Sher wondered aloud, "Isn't [it] the Port that's going to be one of the signatories to this agreement, isn't it? And as of now they're opposed."

    Assemblyman Lowenthal replied, "But the city is in support."

    As brought to the Committee, AB 2042 called for setting an air pollution baseline...and the Ports of LB and L.A., polluting parties and clean air bodies would try to reach a "Memorandum of Agreement" to prevent pollution beyond the baseline.

    Committee chair Senator Sher immediately indicated he felt the bill needed specify what would happen if the Port, polluters and clean air agencies don't agree on the Memorandum of Agreement by the bill's deadline.

    "I suggest the Memorandum [of Agreement] is more likely to succeed if you have a realistic hammer behind it," Senator Sher said, adding "[A]t a minimum you should say if you don't get this done by the date indicated that a direction to the Air District in the usual way, by regulations, to achieve the maximum, feasible reductions of pollutants from these sources..."

    Assemblyman Lowenthal said he'd always planned to add teeth to the measure when the bill reached the Senate (it's already passed the Assembly) and added, "We want to work out something that's do-able and non-punitive and yet gets the job done."

    Assemblyman Lowenthal told Senator Sher he'd work to develop language to do this...and Senator Committee staff is now creating verbiage to do so. It will return for a committee vote, possibly within days.

    The precise text is being crafted as we post.

    The South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Coalition for Clean Air, Natural Resources Defense Council testified in support of the bill.

    Opponents of the bill included the "CA Association of Port Authorities," whose representative said it was the "trade association of the state's 11 commercial, publicly owned ports, includes L.A. and Long Beach" and said the bill "predetermines the outcome of the MOA by establishing a specific date certain baseline and a specific date by which you will meet that baseline."

    The CA Chamber of Commerce favored amending the bill to let "experts in air quality and experts in port operations that understand what can and can't be regulated to sit down at the table and come up with meaningful emissions reductions programs so that money will be better spent, rather than in litigation over whether or not you need injunctive relief because the ports can't meet such a solid line in the sand that's been drawn in the statute itself. And if that were to happen, we just see this as being very damaging to the economy and jobs overall..."

    Also stating their opposition were the CA Railroad Industry, Maersk, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, Western States Petroleum Association and Associated General Contractors.

    A City of Los Angeles rep supported AB 2042 "if amended" (it hasn't been) and a Port of Los Angeles rep said the bill should cap emissions but not cap growth. "We've got to look really carefully at that language to make sure we're not setting ourselves up, either the Port from litigation from its customers when we try to cap their growth, or from environmental groups who believe that we have not done a good enough job," said the Port of L.A.

    Assemblyman Lowenthal stressed that "AB 2042 is simply a "smart growth" measure. The bill states that as the ports of Long Beach [and] Los Angeles grow and expand, they should grow smartly by simply not increasing their air pollution..."

    After opponents suggested AB 2042 might require more than science and technology could deliver, Assemblyman Lowenthal replied that in recent weeks, a ship has docked at the Port of Los Angeles using "cold ironing" (powered at berth by electricity, not polluting bunker fuel.)

    "There are lots of ways in which we can promote and support better business practices, that's all we're saying," he said.

    Assemblyman Lowenthal also said that he had attempted to address concerns by bill opponents by adding a "pollution trading" credit system to the bill...but since opponents persisted in their opposition just the same, he's deleting the pollution trading provision.

    The Committee directed staff to develop an amendment to require that if the parties can't reach agreement on an MOA, clean air agencies will adopt binding rules and regulations to implement reductions by a date certain.

    Will that legislative language require meeting some objective, specific empirical result? Or it will only specify reductions that some third party considers "feasible"? will cover the story.

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