California’s goods movement industry has been conspicuously absent when it comes to lobbying efforts in Sacramento and Washington, so ports and transportation companies have only themselves to blame when laws and regulations don’t go their way, according to a political consultant.
Individual industry sectors may testify about the impact of proposed regulations on their businesses, but their efforts are sporadic and aren’t reinforced by contributions from political action committees.
“There really has been no coordinated effort. You have to think generational, not just the next election,” Harvey Englander, managing partner at Englander, Kabe & Allen, told a FuturePorts seminar in Los Angeles.
Transportation interests complain that California’s infrastructure permitting process is too long, and the nation’s toughest environmental laws put them at a disadvantage compared to other regions, especially ports on the East and Gulf coasts that are preparing for completion of the Panama Canal expansion project in 2015.
Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, the region’s metropolitan planning organization, said it isn’t competition from other ports, but rather delays in approving and funding key goods movement infrastructure projects that pose the biggest threat to California’s ports.
“The big challenge is not the canal. Because of who we are and where we are, the cargo will come here. It’s not getting the infrastructure that will hurt,” Ikhrata said.
In Southern California alone, there are $2.5 billion of shovel-ready projects that should be moving forward, Englander noted, but many political representatives in Sacramento have no idea how important ports and goods movement are to the state’s economy.
Still, aggressive efforts by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to develop and implement their joint Clean Air Action Plan in 2006 have given the ports credibility in the local communities. With trust growing, the ports have been able to secure approval for a number of environmental impact reports over the past two years, said Hector De La Torre, a board member of the California Air Resources Board.
The CAAP has reduced harbor pollution from all sources by more than 50 percent compared to the 2005 baseline. The clean-trucks program has slashed truck emissions by more than 80 percent.
De La Torre agreed with freight interests that regulatory agencies should consider the cumulative impact of all of the environmental rules on the cost of doing business in California.