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    News / Perspective

    House-Passed "SAFE Port" Act Neuters Local Control, Gives DC Control & Industry Interests Clout In Mandated Protocols Favoring Swift Return To Trade After Terrorist Attack

    (May 16, 2006) -- A section of the "SAFE Port" Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4 without requiring the 100% inspection of incoming cargo containers and without audible objection from the City of Long Beach, effectively prevents LB officials from deciding whether containers would continue to flow into LB, and on what terms, following a terrorist attack at the Port of LB or at another U.S. port.

    The legislation, supported by the "American Association of Port Authorities" (an advocacy group representing Port interests) and co-authored by Congressmembers Dan Lungren (R., Sacramento, former LB rep) and Congresswoman Jane Harman (D., Southbay), mandates development of protocols for "the resumption of trade in the event of a transportation security incident [using] contingency and continuity planning that ensures trade lanes are restored as quickly as possible. The protocols shall be developed by the Secretary [of fed'l Dept of Homeland Security] in consultation with appropriate Federal, State, and local officials, including the Coast Guard Captain of the Port involved in the transportation security incident, and representatives of the maritime industry."

    The protocols would be developed "in consultation with appropriate Federal, State and local officials" including the Coast Guard "and representatives of the maritime industry."

    The protocols shall provide for "coordination" [discussions with] "appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies and the private sector on law enforcement actions, inter-modal rerouting plans, and identification and prioritization of goods that may enter the United States."

    Federal officials would be designated "to work with port authorities to reestablish the flow of cargo by prioritizing shipments based on appropriate factors, including factors relating to public health, national security, and economic need."

    The bottom line: the City of LB and its officials (despite their publicly stated policy to favor "local control") would be unable to demand more stringent inspection or security measures or slow cargo following a terrorist attack.

    The verbiage effectively treats LB's nominally locally-controlled port, and arguably LB area residents, as components of a federalized goods movement which non-elected Washington, D.C. officials would decide matters affecting the health and safety of LB-area residents.

    The legislation gives port and "maritime interests" equal voice with "Federal, State and local officials" in influencing those federal decisions...and directs federal officials to work "with port authorities" to reestablish the flow of cargo based on non-prioritized, non-specified "appropriate factors" that "include" in some federal official's view "public health, national security, and economic need."

    The "SAFE Port" Act was developed without audible or visible advocacy by the City of Long Beach...but with very visible and audible advocacy by the Port of LB. As first reported by, a "roundtable" discussion was held at the Port of LB's HQ in March 2006 which included SAFE Port Act co-author Congressmembers Lungren and Homeland Security Committee member Loretta Sanchez (D., Garden Grove). Congresswoman Jane Harman (a SAFE Port Act co-author) was scheduled to take part but opted to spend time attending to the recent birth of a grandchild.)

    Present alongside the members of Congress at the PoLB meeting was the Port of LB's senior DC lobbyist, E. Del Smith, along with representatives of the Ports of LB and L.A.

    However we noticed that LB City Hall officials (management or City Council) were not present at a post-event news conference. subsequently learned, confirmed and reported that Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D., CA), whose district includes the Port of LB, was explicitly told by a DC Capitol Hill staffer that she was not welcome to participate in the "roundtable."

    As previously reported by, the resulting bill did not require that all incoming cargo containers be inspected and sealed before entering the U.S. and scanned for radiation and density and, if appropriate, atomic elements. That security requirement was opposed by the "American Association of Port Authorities" which the Port of LB is a member.

    Components of the goods movement system are in significant respects -- but not exclusively -- federal matters, including the rail system [with fights continuing over state/local anti-pollution rules], customs inspection, border control and the like. Following the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress and President Bush directed a number of port-related security provisions.

    In October 2002, the Bush administration invoked a Taft-Hartley "cooling off" period to prevent a potentially disruptive Port-related labor action, saying it affected the national interest.

    But the SAFE Port Act's verbiage goes further...putting federal bureaucrats in charge of cargo and public safety locally...and prescribing stiff federal penalties for anyone who interferes in their decisions. .

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