Another bill has been introduced in the California Legislature that would slap a $30 fee on containers handled by local ports to reduce congestion, speed goods movement and reduce air pollution.

State Sen. Alan Lowenthal has introduced a revised version of his container fee bill, this time including the Port of Oakland. This is the third time Lowenthal has introduced the bill, with previous attempts stalling in the Legislature or being vetoed.

The latest bill, SB 974, is structured to generate more than $525 million annually to help pay for improvements to the road and railway infrastructure, as well as add funding to promote clean-air programs tied to port trade throughout California.

The container fee is strongly opposed by retailers and ocean carriers, who say it would divert cargo to nearby, cheaper ports in Mexico and the Pacific Northwest and drive up prices on consumer goods.

The Oakland port, the fourth busiest in the country, was included in the bill in order to quell concerns in Los Angeles that shipping business will move up the coast if the fee is imposed, Lowenthal said.

Other significant changes in the bill include the removal of wording that requires a third of funds be used for security, a concession Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sought contending that is a federal issue, Lowenthal said.

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