Life Threatening Veto of SB 974, Port Clean Up Bill, Leaves Californians Gasping For Air and Stuck in Traffic
By Martin Schlageter
Coalition for Clean Air
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s VETO of the Ports Investment Bill (SB 974 – Lowenthal) has killed this year’s most important environmental bill, leaving thousands of Californians quite literally gasping for air. His action ignores California’s public health crisis: Every year some 3,700 Californians die due to air pollution from ports and goods movement. The public foots the bill for this dirty air—more than $19 billion in health related costs yearly.
The Governor has betrayed the Californians who need his help the most. Instead of helping the ten people who die daily from this pollution source, he has turned his back on them and on his campaign promise to cut air pollution in half.
It is disgusting that he has sided with polluters over the health and well-being of those here at home.
If signed, The Ports Investment Bill would have collected more than $300 million per year to clean up port pollution and fix intersections where freight trains delay traffic.
For answers to common questions about this VETO, please continue reading.
FAQ on SB 974 Veto
The Governor promised in 2007 to work with Senator Lowenthal, why is there still disagreement?
The Governor’s staff failed their boss and the people miserably. Last September Governor Schwarzenegger asked Senator Lowenthal to hold the bill, expressing support for the concept of a container fee. Since that time, Lowenthal has engaged all stakeholders, including the Governor’s office, during the legislative process. From October through January, Governor Schwarzenegger’s staff convened a series of meetings with industry representatives to determine if there was a better approach. None were identified. “My administration worked with stakeholders of all interests to craft a bill I would sign,” wrote Governor Schwarzenegger in his veto message. Yet, the Governor’s staff procrastinated in requesting amendments of Senator Lowenthal, and then after the alarm clock on all legislation had already rang, demanded so many significant amendments, so late in the process, that there could not have been any real intention to resolve the bills “critical shortcomings.”
What does this veto do to the Governor’s air quality goals?
Quite simply, California cannot achieve clean air without tackling pollution from ports and freight transportation. Without funding, port pollution will continue to worsen. In his campaign to be Governor of California, Schwarzenegger promised to cut air pollution in half. In fact, some of the most dangerous air pollution is still on the rise. Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto kicks the clean air can further down the alley.
What role did the budget impasse play in the veto?
While Governor Schwarzenegger held SB 974 and other good bills hostage in his attempts to leverage the state budget, we don’t know how budget politics impacted his ultimate decision on SB 974.What is clear, however, is that a veto of SB 974 accomplishes nothing. If you are frustrated that the state is cutting back on transportation and air quality you will be even more frustrated to know that Governor Schwarzenegger passed up the chance to generate $300 million annually in new revenue. If you don’t like the budget, you won’t like this veto. Governor Schwarzenegger has nothing to show for having vetoed this priority environmental bill.
What affect did Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s letter have in the outcome of SB 974?
All we know is that the Governor was lobbied by out-of-state and corporate special interests, Governor Palin among them. This bill had overwhelming and bipartisan support (rea about this below), and year after year was supported by a large majority of the public (see PPIC). With this veto, Governor Schwarzenegger turned his back on California.
Governor Schwarzenegger claims concerns about the economy
The Governor’s claim is false. Governor Schwarzenegger asked California to accept taxpayer debt on bonds to pay for freight infrastructure, but apparently won’t have industry pony up its fair share. A veto leaves California with an estimated $20 billion annual bill to pay for health damage from ports and freight transportation pollution. The impact on consumers would have been miniscule. Even if borne entirely by consumers a $30/TEU fee would add only a half-cent per pair of shoes. This money is collected from the owners of the cargo. This is appropriate and ensures that the market price includes the externalities trade currently shifts onto public health and local congestion. This fee would have been spread across the international supply chain, including on out-of-state consumers of imports that pass through California.
“I know of no other source of potential funding for our local transportation projects in which such a low percentage of the funds come from our own local taxpayers.”
—Republican Assemblymember Bob Huff
Governor Schwarzenegger claims concern for the San Joaquin Valley (SJV)
SB 974 would have benefited the San Joaquin Valley. A veto hurts the Valley.
• Valley exporters would have benefited by increased reliability and decreased delays
• Cleaner trucks would have benefited Valley air quality. We know that some of the trucks that operate at the ports go to or come from the SJV but no one has accurate data on this yet. Applying these funds to non-port traffic, would have torpedoed this bill by requiring a 2/3 vote by the legislature or by inviting litigation.
• Without the container fee, the funds needed to clean up port trucks will further stretch Moyer and other pots of money needed for other Valley sources.
What is the Ports Investment Bill?
The Ports Investment Bill would have generated more than $300 million annually and put it equally toward air quality and infrastructure. It would have enabled California’s three largest ports [Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland] to collect a fee of up to $30 per TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit—the common container is 40 feet long.
• 1/2 the funds collected were to fix rail crossings that increasingly delay traffic due to the growing volume of trade from the ports
• 1/2 were for projects to reduce air pollution generated by port operations and container transportation
Martin Schlageter is the campaign and advocacy director for the Coalition for Clean Air and guides CCA’s campaign work across California.. He joined the Coalition staff in 2002 to help steer California, and especially Los Angeles, toward renewable energy and away from the reliance on polluting sources of energy such as coal and other fossil fuels.