(Sept. 1, 2006) -- As previously reported by LBReport.com, on Aug. 17 leaders in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly blocked the advance of two key bills affecting LB: a "no net increase" in port pollution bill (SB 764) and container fee bill (SB 760), both by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV). The bills had already cleared the state Senate and were one Assembly committee vote away from advancing to a final vote on the Assembly floor.
Sen. Lowenthal was allowed to use a "gut and amend" procedure to pour text from the container fee bill into another bill and thereby advanced it to the Assembly floor. However he didn't (he says he couldn't) do this with his "no net increase" bill, backed by the City of LB (via a City Council vote) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). We recall Sen. Lowenthal calling his "no net increase" bill the most important piece of legislation he'd introduced in all his years in the state legislature (since 1999); Sen. Lowenthal says he'd called both bills the two most important he'd introduced in his years in the legislature. [One of us is having a "senior moment" on this; LBReport.com is working to track this down.]
We also learned and reported that Sen. Lowenthal substantively changed part of the container fee bill text in the "gut and amend" process. Instead of sending 1/3 of the container fee revenue to the regional South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), the bill now sends that money to the CA Air Resources (CARB), the state entity which engineered the controversial MOU with CA's major railroads denounced by SCAQMD, multiple environmental and community groups. CARB, now filled with several appointees of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, continues to maintain and defend its industry-friendly RR MOU despite the opposition.
So...what does SCAQMD think of all this? We phoned its Diamond Bar HQ after speaking with Sen. Lowenthal, and the agency's public information office noted they had to touch bases with their reps in Sac'to, so the agency's official response is still pending.
However in the meantime, LBReport.com received an email from 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, who is the newest member of SCAQMD's governing board where she represents multiple southeast L.A. County cities, including LB. As LB's 7th district Councilwoman, she's been outspoken about the need for relief for WLB residents from Port and goods movement related air pollution. She's also publicly confronted CARB over the RR MOU, once in testimony in El Monte and a second time in Sacramento, the latter testimony coming after the LB City Council (with her support) adopted a resolution opposing the CARB RR MOU.
So...what does SCAQMD Boardmember Reyes Uranga think of what's happened? She sent us a quick email in the early evening on August 31 summarizing her views. We post its substance below with her permission along with information she provided to us in a quick telephone conversation.
SCAQMD Boardmember Reyes Uranga said she'd met earlier on Aug. 31 with SCAQMD Executive Officer Barry Wallerstein and believes her views and his are basically on the same page on the matter.
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga indicated she supports the implementaton of fees called for in the container fee bill. She said SCAQMD's board has supported several different version of this type of proposal by Sen. Lowenthal.
"We disagree with the money going to Sacramento [CARB] rather than staying here locally as well as a few technical items. Nonetheless, on the whole, it's better to get some funding for mitigation that's critical to Port cleanup than have no bill at all. This bill is very important and should receive approval by the legislature and the Governor," Boardmember Reyes Uranga said. [On Aug. 31, the container fee bill cleared the legislature and is now on its way to Governor Schwarzenegger's desk.]
Boardmember Reyes Uranga said she believes there are some in the Governor's office who weren't pleassed with SCAQMD's aggressive stance in opposition to CARB's RR MOU. "My district and many communities in the Inland Empire where in line with AQMD on this one," Boardmember Reyes Uranga said.
She indicated that SCAQMD's technical issues with the container fee bill have to do with the following verbiage in its text: Beginning January 1, 2007, CARB "shall develop a list of projects that reduce air pollution caused by the movement of container cargo to and from" the Ports of LB and L.A. "The projects on the list shall be consistent with the Emission Reduction Plan adopted March 2006, and shall have the overall goal of reducing air pollution at the ports in order to reach federal air quality attainment standards."
Boardmember Reyes Uranga said in her email, "Unfortunately CARB's Emission Reduction Plan does not give us the level of relief that Port of LA's "no net increase" plan or even the Ports' [of LB-LA] draft Clean Air Action Plan calls for. They [CARB] simply do not go far enough."
Boardmember Reyes Uranga added: "Hopefully the requirement to 'consult with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Gateway Council of Governments, and the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach...No later than September 1, 2007' will get us closer to where we should be."
Further as this story develops.