A bill that would've raised as much as $300 million a year to fight air pollution around the ports of Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles was among Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's last-minute vetoes Tuesday.
Republican vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had asked Schwarzenegger last month to veto this bill, fearing it would increase the cost of goods shipped through California ports to Alaska. Now some critics see a political motive, a kowtow to big business or both behind Schwarzenegger's action.
"I have to conclude it had something to do with it," Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, said Wednesday of Palin's request, calling the bill "good public policy" and calling the governor's veto "a clear contradiction of everything he has articulated about a green California."
State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said it's "such a shame the governor listened to business interests and vetoed this bill. ... His own administration has concluded that diesel pollution from ports kills hundreds of people each year, and gives thousands of kids asthma."
State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the bill's author, said he'd "held off on this bill last year at the request of Governor Schwarzenegger, and spent the whole year working with his office. Unfortunately, the pressure from Governor Palin and multinational corporations was too much for him."
And Planning and Conservation League legislative director Tina Andolina said Schwarzenegger "went back on his word and vetoed the best solution we have to the devastating pollution plaguing communities near the ports and other goods movement corridors."
SB974 would've imposed a fee of up to $30 per shipping container processed in the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland, with the revenue to be spent on relieving ground traffic and air pollution in communities around the ports. It was supported by environmental and health organizations, and opposed generally by retailers and manufacturers moving cargo through the ports. The Assembly passed it July 15 on a 46-24 vote, and the state Senate passed it Aug. 5 on a 22-10 vote.
Schwarzenegger's veto message Tuesday said the bill lacks "necessary assurances that projects will achieve the greatest cost-effectiveness, emission reductions, and public health protection. Also, the bill does not adequately provide the San Joaquin Valley with access to funds to reduce pollution related to container cargo coming directly to and from the ports throughout the Valley."
The bill lacks a means of coordinating and integrating infrastructure projects and plans, providing no "long-term, strategic planning for the state's goods movement infrastructure," he wrote, adding the bill also "misses the opportunity to leverage billions of dollars in available funding through public-private partnerships, which could otherwise increase investments in infrastructure geometrically."
Schwarzenegger had cited the bill Friday in San Francisco, telling a Commonwealth Club of California audience who'd come to hear his thoughts on California's energy and environmental issues that he'd be taking a close look at it.
The California Air Resources Board issued a report in March which found West Oakland residents are at significantly higher risk of developing cancer due to diesel particulate emissions from the Port of Oakland.