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    Candidate Kuykendall on AB 2042 (No Increased Air Pollution w/ Port Growth): What Would Kuykendall Do?

    Background and Perspective

    (October 4, 2004) -- Steve Kuykendall, a former Mayor/Councilman in Rancho Palos Verdes, is seeking the 54th district Assembly seat now held by Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV). Mr. Kuykendall, a Republican, held the Assembly seat from 1994-1998 before winning election to Congress in 1998. (He lost to Democrat Jane Harman in 2000). Lowenthal, term limited in the Assembly, is seeking the state Senate seat now held by Betty Karnette (D., LB). Karnette, term limited in the Senate, is seeking Lowenthal's Assembly seat...which she held from 1992-94 before being ousted by Kuykendall.

    In just weeks, LB voters are expected to play a pivotal role in determining whether Kuykendall or Karnette will represent them in Sacramento.

    In 2004, Assemblyman Lowenthal authored AB 2042, which sought to limit air pollution from operations at the Ports of LB and L.A. to a 2004 baseline level as the ports grow, in effect. specifying that air pollution couldn't get worse than it is now. AB 2042 allowed the Ports of LB and L.A. to implement measures of their choice to meet the bill's "no net increase" standard.

    AB 2042 was supported by the City of LB (via its elected City Council) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD).

    AB 2042 was opposed by the Port of LB (via its non-elected Board of Harbor Commissioners) and by the LB Area Chamber of Commerce and the CA Chamber of Commerce. Both Chambers of Commerce strongly support Mr. Kuykendall's candidacy. Mr. Kuykendall has also been endorsed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    In early August, while AB 2042 was pending in the state legislature, asked Mr. Kuykendall if he would vote for AB 2042 if he were in the Assembly. He requested time to study the bill's details.

    In late August, AB 2042 passed both houses of the state legislature (Assembly and state Senate). Senator Karnette voted "yes" on AB 2042.

    In September, we asked Mr. Kuykendall's LB campaign staffer if the candidate could now discuss AB 2042 with us but we and the candidate didn't link up.

    In September, the LB City Council also voted (for a second time) to support AB 2042. It urged Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign the bill.

    Assemblyman Lowenthal, who called AB 2042 the most important bill he'd introduced in six years in the state legislature, described it as a "smart growth" measure that basically called on the ports not to worsen air pollution as they expand. The CA Chamber of Commerce classified AB 2042 as a "job killer," its most poisonous category.

    On September 29, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 2042. In reporting the story, posted the text of the Governor's veto message verbatim. For convenience, we also post a link here: AB 2042 veto (pdf file).

    We invite readers to decide for themselves if the veto message cites reasons for not signing AB 2042. In our view, it does not...and some portions arguably provide good reasons for signing the bill. The veto message accurately notes that AB 2042 wouldn't make air quality better...but to us that highlights the fact that the bill was very modest...and had AB 2042 been allowed to become law, it would not have prevented additional measures to improve air quality.

    During his 2003 recall run, candidate Schwarzenegger said in his Agenda to Bring California Back posted on

    "Jobs vs. the environment" is a false choice. Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that clean air and water result in a more productive workforce, and a healthier economy, which will contribute to a balanced state budget. Moreover, it is children who suffer disproportionate impacts of environmental toxins. Studies show that children who live near freeways, for example, suffer significantly higher asthma rates and learning disabilities...Breathing clean and healthy air is a right of all Californians, especially our children, whose health suffers disproportionately when our air is polluted. The future health of California's environment and economy depend on our taking action now.

    Following the Governor's veto, the LB Area Chamber of Commerce said on its advocacy web site (

    The Long Beach Chamber applauds the Governor for making the right decision to stop AB 2042 from becoming law. ..The Long Beach Chamber was concerned that this bill would restrict future port growth and would be detrimental to port cargo demands. Finding a compromise between environmental concerns and economic demands was never attained by Assemblymember Lowenthal and those opposing AB 2042. The Long Beach Chamber is supportive of efforts to reduce port impact on our environment, however, AB 2042 was not the right way to make this happen. The Long Beach Chamber looks forward to working with Assemblymember Lowenthal, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and other related groups to find a compromise to this important issue...

    The Press Telegram called the Governor's veto of AB 2042 "no obstacle to effective action" and suggested "an executive order setting up a special emissions district in the port area with tough pollution controls" (or having the CA Air Resources Board do this); a "bond issue to pay for incentives to clean up...diesel [sources]"; a "barge mounted system" to "bag [ships'] stacks and filter out the harmful gunk" (with CARB doing so, if necessary lobbied by LB's Mayor and Council). The PT opined: "The total cost for all of this, even if taxpayers had to pay for it all, would be less than one minor parks bond."

    On October 3, we contacted Mr. Kuykendall's LB campaign office and reiterated our desire to ask the candidate about AB 2042. The staffer indicated we'd be welcome to pose the questions to Mr. Kuykendall at a Rancho Palos Verdes fundraiser later that afternoon...and Mr. Kuykendall obliged. His comments to us came as he was about to enter the location. As we routinely remind readers whenever we post extended comments of this nature, the following is extemporaneous speech.

    Comments of Mr. Kuykendall re AB 2042 to So why should voters elect you if you're backed by two of the leading groups that worked [to kill AB 2042], the two Chambers [LB & CA Chambers of Commerce]?

    Mr. Kuykendall: Because I think you've got somebody that might be able to work with the sitting Governor in writing a bill that would be passed and signed. I mean I think that's the biggest reason to.

    I'm of the opinion we've got to come up with a program that gives us incentives and gives us a timing, whether it's to give people the ability to buy trucks in an orderly fashion, rebuild engines in an orderly fashion, transfer it over to electric power, but you just can't put down a marker and say OK, as of tomorrow, it's got to be this way.

    There's enough pragmatism in me as I look at it, I think that you're going to have to have some kind of a program to make that transition. You just can't say OK it stops today...and that's what I saw the Governor saying in his veto message. And that was also, it was interesting, that's what the Press-Telegram was saying. And they had some good ideas I thought, the Press-Telegram's editorial page.

    And I think why you would choose me is because I'm going to be a face that's going to be able to work with this Governor, probably more so than my opponent can, on coming up with a bill that's going to be acceptable to him.

    And I've got environmental credentials for whether I've voted for things for clean water or clean air, to protect wetlands that kind of thing in the past, so I mean I'm not an enemy to the environmental groups. In what ways would you change the bill?

    Mr. Kuykendall: I think probably the first thing, and I've had to see how you'd structure it, is to come up with some kind of time lines to phase in different elements of it, rather than just saying basically everything has to change, as of this date we're going to start counting the air [pollution]. Maybe you can say, I need the air to change, as of a certain date, but I'm going to go there by looking at trucks, tractors in the terminals, ships' emissions, trains and put all of those pieces together and say OK, how can I physically change the way trucks are built so that I get more clean engines on the road sooner. But what AB 2042 did is it just arguably said the Ports don't have an entitlement to continue using public property at the public owned Port to make matters worse. What is it exactly that...

    Mr. Kuykendall [interjects]: But there's a practical application to that. You can't physically change it in one day, you know, because you pass a law from one day to the next. I mean, and that's I guess where I'm pragmatic enough that says we've got to come up with a plan to do this in a phasing [manner] as opposed to trying to just change it on one day. And I think that's the difference, as opposed to just saying OK on this date you can't make anything that's going to make it get worse. Well, quite frankly, as you look forward, you can't turn off a third of America's trade by virtue of a signature on a California bill. I mean, you just physically can't do it. And so you've got to figure out, I mean, I want clean air but I've got to come up with a plan that'll get us there rather than just passing a law, because that isn't going to change any air. In the Governor's veto message, I read it very closely and I couldn't find any specific statement where he said he gave an affirmative reason for not going for the bill except for one sentence: he said it would not make the air cleaner, which is true; all it would do is not make it worse. Are you prepared to say that you would support a bill that would make things cleaner, and go further than the Lowenthal bill? That seems to be what the Governor was suggesting.

    Mr. Kuykendall: You know, I could, I don't know, because I could be in that position if we could come up with a program that'll give us a pathway to get there. Right now this bill doesn't give us any path, and I've got thousands of trucks that are diesel powered, that are maybe too old, bad engines, I've got trains that maybe we can get cleaner burning trains, I've got tractors that are used, UTRs, utility tractors on the terminal sites, if we can get them converted...but I've got to come up with a program to do that, and then I've got to come up with an incentive for people to do it. ...Why should the entities causing the pollution, the various sources of it, be the ones to say we can't do it in a certain amount of time? It's publicly owned land, give them the flexibility, that's the argument, give them the flexibility to come up with a creative way to fix it.

    Mr. Kuykendall: My impression was there was there was not flexibility over that date. As of that date, you immediately had to make no change, you had to make sure it got no worse. As a baseline, that's correct.

    Mr. Kuykendall: And that date was already now. Right, but how they would go about [meeting that level] would be flexible.

    Mr. Kuykendall: But the point was, they can't change everything they're doing that quickly. I mean, just think about how long does it take to replace the fleet of trucks that usually stays on the road for a half a million miles with one engine change maybe at a quarter of a million miles. So just to cut to the chase, if you were sitting in the Assembly seat and Senator Lowenthal brings you "Son of AB 2042" that's the same, what would you do?

    Mr. Kuykendall: I'd probably look at him and say, "Can we agree to co-author this thing?" and I'd co-author it with him from the Assembly side and if he and I come to an agreement on what we think would be workable, because I think that's something you can work on. And the changes and amendments that you'd make?

    Mr. Kuykendall: ...I think where Alan [Lowenthal] missed the boat was he needed to come up with some kind of phased implementation of this rather than an absolute "as of today."...I think many of our other environmental laws started at one level and said, OK, by this year you've got to have it down to this, and by this year you got to have it down... How much time would you like to give them?

    Mr. Kuykendall: You know, I'm not willing to tackle that question right now because I haven't had the benefit of all those folks talking to me like Karnette and Lowenthal did, and the Governor did too for that matter. Obviously he heard some of it that some people were, he was impressed enough by their comments. But I think this is an area where we can come to a solution that will make the air better in this community and it's probably going to take a mixture of a Lowenthal approach and a Kuykendall approach in order to get one that we can get passed. It's not going to be done by one or the other.

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