Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill that would have imposed a $30 fee on cargo containers moving through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to pay for clean air programs.

The bill by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would also have applied to Oakland's port and was expected to generate at least $300 million annually to fund programs to clean up smog at port communities.

However, in a veto message sent late Tuesday to the Legislature, the governor said the bill was too costly, lacked accountability and did not provide money to the Central Valley, which also suffers from dirty air generated by port related truck traffic.

"Given the current economic downturn, it is vitally important that the state does not worsen the situation by mandating added costs on business that do not provide any public benefit,"' Schwarzenegger wrote.

Environmental groups chastised the governor for rejecting the bill, saying the fees would have gone a long way toward reducing the negative health impacts on residents living near the heavily polluting ports.

Lowenthal has attempted to get similar bills approved for years, but the effort has run into resistance in Sacramento over concerns that a cargo fee would drive up costs for businesses that use the ports. After the veto, Lowenthal complained the governor "sold us out" to big business interests.

The move came the day before the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach kicked off a multi-billion dollar clean air program that will replace thousands of diesel trucks with less-polluting models.

The veto also comes after Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote to Schwarznegger asking him to veto the bill, complaining it would raise the costs of goods shipped to her state. Schwarzenegger did not cite Palin's opposition in his veto message.

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