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    News / Perspective

    Compare Port of LB On TV Vs. Letter To Lawmakers On Whether "Clean Air Action Plan" Will Deliver Or Fall Short

    (May 8, 2007) -- About three weeks before telling LB's Mayor, Councilmembers and state lawmakers that the Port of LB/L.A.'s "Clean Air Action Plan" may not deliver its pollution reduction goals as planned, LB Harbor Commission President Jim Hankla offered a considerably more upbeat view on LB's Straight Talk TV program.

    Photo source: Straight Talk Productions, Inc. allows readers to compare some of the points we found noteworthy below. We also link the full telecast and full written document, below.

    Straight Talk Executive Producer/Host Art Levine covered a lot of territory in a short period of time with LB's former City Manager, former ACTA CEO, now Harbor Commission President. To view it [caveat: you may need QuickTime plug-in] click here. For audio (MP3 "podcast"), click here. The show's increasingly robust website, includes many useful archival interviews.

    Our perspective follows with a caveat: we're not suggesting that interviewer Levine shares our views (or vice versa)...but he raised important points and got important statements on the record.

    In the interview, taped March 30 for April viewing, Harbor Commission President Hankla acknowledged that LB Port and industry reps are meeting -- apparently behind closed oors -- on what could ultimately become an "alternative" to container fee legislation ("port investment" bill SB 974) by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV).

    To date, neither the public nor the press know what those closed-door meetings are devising...and whether it would let the Ports use container fee revenue to expand Port infrastructure without delivering real, enforceable net pollution reductions (instead of rubbery Port-written "goals").

    Fueling our concern is the April 20 letter (made public by in which Harbor Commission President Hankla tells State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) that LB's Harbor Commission has voted to endorse his now-pending container fee bill (SB 947) only if amended.

    [A month earlier, LB City's Council voted 8-0 to endorse the bill without attaching any conditions, essentially giving Sen. Lowenthal a "blank check" to subsequently change the bill while still claiming City Hall's support.]

    In contrast to the Council's blank-check style endorsement, LB's Harbor Commission voted to endorse the bill only with amendments...which President Hankla's April 20 letter calls "necessary" to ensure no restriction on Port use of container fee revenue to expand Port infrastructure...even if the Port's Clean Air Action Plan doesn't deliver pollution reductions due to what LB's Harbor Commissioners portray as beyond their control.

    But LB's Harbor Commissioners do control Port expansion. Port growth and its capacity to worsen net pollution are within the Harbor Commission's control. LB's incumbent Harbor Commissioners (all appointed by former Mayor Beverly O'Neill) have chosen to pursue Port capacity expansion regardless of its net pollution consequences.

    Among the Port's desired expansion projects is rebuilding the Gerald Desmond bridge...which would let even larger mega-container ships enter LB's inner harbor, bringing a quantum increase in containers, requiring more or higher capacity trucks, trains, new facilities (unmentioned but we believe potentially including the proposed WLB SCIG) or other means.

    Straight Talk (taped March 30)April 20 letter
    Harbor Comm' President Hankla: ...Alan [Sen. Lowenthal's] bill [SB 974] is hugely improved over the version that was vetoed by the Governor [Sept. 06]. First it includes the Port of Oakland, which was critical, and basically it also removes security from one of the applications of funding...

    I still think that there's a little bit of improvement on Alan's bill but I applaud it. I think it's important. The Ports are pushing their own container fee and it may be enacted before Alan's bill even gets to the Governor's desk as I'm sure it will, and that fee will be collected locally and the money will remain local instead of traveling to Sacramento and hoping we get back cents on the dollar.

    ...Mr. Levine:...And of course Alan has often backed off. He views legislation as prodding industry and then if industry picks it up he's happy to back off.

    Harbor Comm' President Hankla: That's what he did with the "Pier Pass" program. I'm not saying he'll do that with this bill, but I think Alan's bill is very useful. I think it's much improved and I applaud his effort.

    Mr. Levine: And bottom line, you believe that in five years we will be below the 2001 pollution levels?

    Harbor Commission President Hankla: That is our goal.

    Mr. Levine: That is your goal.

    Harbor Commission President Hankla: And it has metrics. The Clean Air Action Plan has metrics. Our Green Port policy has metrics. This is all very, very measurable on a year to year basis and our goal is to reduce the emissions per ton of cargo handled.

    At the April 16th meeting of the Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners, the Board voted to support SB 974 only if amended...The bill must not restrict the use of user fee funds if Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) emission reduction goals are not achieved due to circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the Ports...

    [Port proposed verbiage to be incorporated in the bill] "If any of the source specific emission reduction goals have not been met, due to circumstances outside of the control of the ports, the commission [CA Transportation Comm', which would distribute infrastructure project money] shall weigh the Ports' ability to achieve the emission reduction when determining whether to award funding to any project..."

    ...Mr. Levine: ...[A]bout the "no net increase" legislation that was introduced last year by Senator Lowenthal...What's your view of that legislation?

    Harbor Comm' President Hankla: Well, I believe that Senator Lowenthal perhaps took a look at the fact that the Clean Air Action Plan and the Green Port policy combined will result in a net decrease, and that is our goal. I mean "no net increase" is fine but it's much better to have a net decrease, and that's our goal, that we will have a net decrease below the 2001 standards at the end of five years.

    Mr. Levine: And you personally have a reasonable degree of confidence that that goal will be met?

    Harbor Comm' President Hankla: If we can clean up 16,000 trucks in five years we can meet that goal.

    The reasons for these necessary amendments to the original language include:

  • The CAAP [Clean Air Action Plan] does not estimate emission reductions associated with rail or harborcraft because of the speculative nature of the emission reductions, and therefore the Ports have no control over these sources.
  • While rail emission reductions are not quantified (with the exception of Pacific Harbor Line), the rail measures are dependent on EPA regulatory action.
  • The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will ensure that all projects are mitigated. As described in the CAAP, CAAP measures will be incorporated into each CEQA document and subsequent lease.
  • The CAAP is dependent on lease requirements and, hence, project approvals. If a project is delayed (i.e. Middle Harbor) the Port will be unable to meet the emission reduction goals outlined.
  • Some events are beyond the Ports control. Pacific Harbor Lines (PHL) agreement, which is included in the CAAP, requires the use of emulsified diesel fuel. Unfortunately, the vendor has removed the product from the market as of January 1, 2007. As a result, we will not be able to achieve all the emission reductions described for PHL.
  • The Port faces serious litigation challenges that may take years to resolve and may tie-up programs like Heavy Duty Vehicle-1 and prevent implementation of, or potentially much worse, courts may rule against the Port.
  • Emission reductions associated with low sulfur, distillate marine fuels are dependent on the fuel availability. If the fuel availability study being conducted jointly by California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the ports reveal [sic] insufficient fuel to meet our demands, the Port would not meet its estimated emission reductions.
  • LB's newly strengthened Mayor (after May 1 passage of Prop A) and the Council (which has a line-item veto over the Port's proposed budget annually) haven't discussed the Port's position on SB 947. To our knowledge, they've not sought public disclosure of what Port staff is discussing with industry reps on an "altertative" to the legislation.

    If/when they do, we'll report it.

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