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    Guest Opinion

    Abandoning No Net Increase = Faith Based Lawmaking On Port Pollution

    By Dan Pressburg

    Editor's note: To our knowledge, is the only LB media outlet to date to have told its readers that State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) has not reintroduced a "no net increase" in Port pollution bill by this year's Senate legislative deadline. "No net increase" legislation was supported by the City of Long Beach as in multiple votes of the Long Beach City Council.

    (March 4, 2007) -- The ink on November's infrastructure bond measure had scarcely dried before State Senator Alan Lowenthal took a giant step backward by failing to meet the submission deadline for new bills on Feb. 23, taking his "No Net Increase Bill" off the table.

    I seem to recall that in previous public statements, the Senator indicated that he considered his no net increase bill perhaps the most important legislation he'd penned while in Sacramento. With that statement, I wholeheartedly agree.

    Prior to the November 2006 elections, this writer noted the absence of meaningful accountability in then-proposed infrastructure bond measures, Prop 1B in particular which contained millions of dollars for permanent port infrastructure with significantly less one-time money for clean air enhancement.

    "No Net Increase" legislation was the enforcement arm that required accountability from the Ports and their tenants to follow-up on their "green port" words with actions that, at minimum, don't make current conditions worse.

    By abandoning his no net increase legislation, Senator Lowenthal is offering the public "faith based" lawmaking: a container fee bill without legal teeth or real accountability while ensuring the Port and its users freeway expansion and the increased goods movement it will bring, then expecting infrastructure enhancements to create clean air.

    In October 2006, this writer testified at an informational meeting of the State Senate Transportation Committee in Los Angeles, staged by Senator Lowenthal (Committee chair, the only state lawmaker present) in the run-up to the November bond election. At that time, I said accountability and certain conditions should be in place before funds were handed out.

    On the morning of the hearing, the Sacramento Bee editorialized that the infrastructure bond's one-time mitigation money didn't assure continued funding for environmental improvement, calling the approach "faith based." This term could just as well be applied to Sen. Lowenthal's abandonment of no net increase protection regarding port pollution now.

    A little over three months after the election, we now have nearly unbridled public bond-debt money available to expand port infrastructure without serious controls, penalties or protection for the public. Sen. Lowenthal, who supported the bond without these protections, now says he'll try to get the legislature to attach some conditions on spending the money.

    But the so-called "public-private partnership" advertised before the election has disappeared since officials now have the public money within reach. The outcome even surprised AQMD boardmember/Environmental Committee chair Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, who indicated she wasn't briefed by city management on removal of the no net increase bill from Lowenthal's former package of clean air enforcement bills.

    Once again, I want to state: praying for the Port of Long Beach to do the right thing without enforcement is faith based, amounting to "Trust Me." Port growth based on this notion is truly out of control...perhaps even out of control of LB Harbor Commissioners, who often seem to be controlled by goods movement and expansion instead of the other way around.

    The time is now when the rubber meets the road, before the dollars are allocated, to put into law the modest requirement that as the Port grows, it doesn't grow pollution. Without no net increase verbiage, Sen. Lowenthal's container fee bill invites that to happen and provides no protection that it won't.

    Mr. Pressburg, a NLB resident, is a long-time LB community activist.

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