Alaska and Hawaii: Clean Up The Mess You Made In California


Today's Los Angeles Times reports that Governor Palin of Alaska and Governor Lingle of Hawaii wrote to California Governor Schwarzenegger on August 28, 2008, asking him not to sign the pending cargo container fee legislation known as SB 974.  In doing so, Palin and Lingle are asking California residents to continue to pay the cost of the air pollution that Alaska and Hawaii cause in California by shipping goods from California to their states.  These politicians are telling us that the health of California's citizens is not important compared to the fractions of a penny additional cost that SB 974 might impose. 

Here is a description from the California Senate Rules Committee of how SB 974, sponsored by Calfornia State Senator Lowenthal, would work:  

This bill imposes a fee on container cargo imported and exported through the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Oakland in an amount not to exceed $30 per twenty-foot equivalent unit.  This bill requires that 50 percent of fee revenues be used to develop infrastructure projects that reduce congestion and 50 percent of revenues be used to mitigate the air quality impacts associated with the movement of freight in and out of the three ports.   

Doing the math, most containerized freight is shipped in forty-foot containers holding about 50,000 lbs of cargo.  An increase in shipping costs of $60 for a forty-foot container works out to just over one-tenth of one cent per pound.  This does not seem to me to be a huge burden, especially to the oil-rich state of Alaska. 

And what would the extra $60 per cargo container pay for?  Projects that will help clean the air around California's three largest ports  -- areas where literally millions of people live who are now suffering from the effects of diesel pollution from the huge ships that carry the cargo containers [read more].  Right now, ships going to Alaska and Hawaii contribute to this pollution every time they leave California docks, and the citizens of Alaska and Hawaii are getting a free ride because they pay nothing for the California pollution that these ships cause.   

This situation is something that Governors Palin and Lingle should be ashamed of.  Instead of asking California's Governor to kill SB 974, they should be asking how they can help clean up the mess their states are making here.  And the answer to that is easy:  ask Governor Schwarzenegger to sign SB 974.