A bill that sought to create an analysis of the consequences of airplane pollution from the Santa Monica Airport that impacts nearby homeowners and neighboring communities was defeated in the State Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday, August 30th, despite near unanimous support from local elected officials and citizen activist groups.
Assembly Bill 700 would have required Santa Monica, which owns and operates Santa Monica Airport, to establish a technical advisory committee to evaluate all available studies and data regarding the airport.
In addition, the bill would have mandated that, on or before January 1st, 2009, a report with recommendations about potential actions that could be taken to mitigate the effects of air traffic connected with the airport be submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration and the State Legislature.
The bill had garnered enormous support from the Los Angeles City Council, two members of the State Assembly and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of Venice.
Two factors cited in the proposed legislation’s defeat were Santa Monica’s decision not to fund the task force and the battle in Sacramento over the 2007-08 budget, which may have caused state lawmakers to be gun-shy about appropriating money — regardless of the amount.
Ping Ho, a UCLA professor who has written an analysis on aircraft emissions, said she was encouraged that the bill had traveled as far as it did in the State Legislature.
“AB 700 got a lot farther than its predecessor, AB 250,” she noted.
Ho, a Santa Monica homeowner who lives near the airport, believes that the local government can still play a vital role in seeking health studies on how emissions from idling aircraft are harming its constituents.
“There is nothing that can stop the [Santa Monica] City Council with pursuing this on their own,” she said. “I certainly think that they can work in conjunction with the scientific community and pursue grants that will allow them to continue to study this very important community, health and safety issue.”
Others in Santa Monica feel that their local elected representatives let them down by not agreeing to finance the task force that the bill would have created.
“One can’t help but feel that since the City of Santa Monica was not willing to pay for the costs of the technical advisory committee, the state Senate committee dealing with money issues silently killed the bill without even the courtesy of showing how the votes were cast,” Martin Rubin alleged a day after the committee’s decision. He is the director of the grassroots Santa Monica neighborhood organization Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, an umbrella group for other grassroots neighborhood organizations.
“Had Santa Monica not objected to paying the cost of hosting this advisory committee, a committee that Santa Monica could have certainly thought of initiating on their own, without governmental intervention, AB 700 would have passed out of this committee and moved to the vote from the full Senate,” Rubin added.
David Ford, a spokesman for Democratic Assemblyman Ted Lieu of Torrance, the author of AB 700, also indicated that Santa Monica’s choice to not absorb the cost of the task force did not help the proposed legislation’s cause.
“The city did raise some concerns about the cost of the task force, which would have cost them between $100,000 and $150,000 to implement,” Ford explained.
Once the Santa Monica City Council backed way from funding the task force, the bill had little chance of clearing the committee.
“It is the job and the right of [the committee] to decide what they are going to spend money on,” said Lieu’s spokesman.
The partisan wrangling over the budget, which passed last year after a 51-day holdout, also cast a shadow over the committee, Ford believes.
“There were members who lost bills that had smaller amounts,” he said.
“Santa Monica has shown that it can talk the talk, but it repeatedly walks feebly, only when it is compelled to under strong pressure from the community and other legislative entities. I have seen that the city of Santa Monica is guilty, as is the Federal Aviation Administration, of being reactive and not proactive,” Rubin charged.
“Santa Monica has also refused to collect important data necessary for thorough modeling studies of the odiferous jet emissions. I ask you, how much less can they do? We have two state senators [Sheila Kuehl and Jenny Oropeza] on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and still the bill couldn’t pass. You wonder how hard they fought.
“Just as we cannot trust the FAA, we also don’t trust the City of Santa Monica with regards to [the airport], and why should we? After almost 25 years in partnership with the FAA, the airport has developed into a cancerous, polluting menace to thousands of airport neighbors,” said Rubin.
Justina Krakowski, a new mother who lives a few blocks north of the airport, could not contain her disappointment after hearing the news that AB 700 did not make it out of the committee.
“It’s extremely discouraging,” she said during a telephone interview two days after the bill had been defeated. “We’ve been talking about it all day.”
Krakowski is concerned about how the jet fumes from the airport will affect her new baby girl, who was born prematurely. She is considering writing to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to protest the committee’s decision.
“We have so many things to worry about, like lead in toys from China, and the worst polluter is our neighbor, ” Krakowski noted.
Many have criticized Schwarzenegger for agreeing to cut taxes on yacht owners but slashed millions of dollars in funding for mental health services.
“I do find it interesting that the governor, on his own, chose to cut over $50 million in homeless programs and mental health services,” said Ford.
Proponents of AB 700 have pledged that they will continue to press for action on this regional hazard on the local, state and federal level.
“I fully intend to continue to pursue this issue,” Ho vowed. “There is a lot that can still be done. This is too important an issue, and it should not go away.”
Although he feels it is too early to speculate on the possibility of resurrecting the bill in some form next year, Ford concurred with Ho. “This issue is not going away,” he said.
Robert Trimborn, director of the Santa Monica Airport, could not be reached for comment at Argonaut press time.