Desal in the News

French Laundry lobbyist’s second-biggest client? Poseidon Water, a Gavin Newsom funder - Jan. 4, 2021

Op-ed by Andrea Leon-Grossman, Sacramento Bee

The French Laundry dinner Newsom attended in November was a birthday celebration for lobbyist Jason Kinney, a partner in the Axiom Advisors lobbying firm. Poseidon has already paid Axiom Advisors more than $500,000 over the past year and a half to lobby Newsom (not to mention a $25,000 contribution to Newsom’s inauguration) and other state officials to secure approval of its boondoggle desalination project.

Governor’s talk on environment falls short when it comes to the Poseidon project – December 3, 2020

Guest Commentary by Garry Brown, Los Angeles Times

Orange County sees past Poseidon’s efforts to buy support for its desalination boondoggle. Why can’t Gov. Newsom?

Based on Newsom’s 2019 Water Resilience Portfolio, you’d think the governor would be highly skeptical of the Poseidon project. After all, the portfolio prioritizes “water efficiency, conservation and reuse” to meet California’s ongoing water needs and indicates that desalination should be part of the mix only “where it is cost-effective and environmentally appropriate” and consistent with the state’s Ocean Plan. But the Poseidon project meets none of the governor’s own criteria.

Desal proponent Poseidon spends big, gets modest election results – Nov. 5, 2020

By Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register

Poseidon Water, developer of the controversial desalination proposal for Huntington Beach, spent big in an effort to win water board seats for sympathetic candidates in the election Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Backing five candidates for two water boards important to the future of the $1 billion plant, Poseidon spent at least $419,000 in the past two months on independent campaign expenditures outside of the candidates’ own efforts. That’s more than twice what the those five favored candidates themselves raised for their campaigns. In fact, Poseidon’s spending was 50% more than that collectively raised by all 18 candidates for those five seats.

“They really upped the ante,” said Poseidon opponent Ray Hiemstra, chairman of the Sierra Club Orange County Political Committee. “It just shows how concerned they are about these water districts. They want their people on the boards.”

The Environmental Racism Behind the Poseidon Desalination Proposal - Nov. 2, 2020

Voice of Orange County: Community Opinion by Oscar Rodriguez

Families in Carlsbad, where Poseidon has built a desalination plant, have experienced rising costs each year that the plant has been operating. In 2010, the average water bill per household in San Diego was $885 per year. By 2018, three years after the Poseidon plant began operations, the average water bill per household in San Diego had skyrocketed to $1,416 per year, and water rates continue to rise. 

In addition to threatening water affordability, the Poseidon plant presents yet another environmental injustice, by fueling a crisis that disproportionately hurts communities of color: climate change. It takes a lot of energy to produce desalinated water, energy that will come from gas plants that burn fossil fuels, which, from fracking, piping, storage, to combustion, harms people and pollutes their neighborhoods.

Gov. Newsom Ousts Key Poseidon Desal Critic from Water Board Ahead of Project’s Approval - Oct. 22, 2020

Voice of Orange County, Brandon Pho

“How far is the governor willing to go to tip the scales in favor of the … project?” Bothwell said on Wednesday. “Is he really going to go against the local residents and the environmental justice advocates’ concerns?”

Andrea Leon Grossman, who has spoken out against the project on behalf of the Latino environmental justice group Azul, said the project goes “into direct conflict with environmental justice, with the human right to water and water affordability.”

Mailbag: Controversies, contributions drive concerns about Orange County races - October 20, 2020

LA Times Letter to Editor, Tim Geddes

The for-profit Poseidon outfit has pumped tens of thousands of dollars of support to favored candidates in both the Orange County Water District and the Municipal Water District of Orange County.

The reason these races are so important to everyone is that there are long-term negative impacts to our water rates and water policies if ruinous decades-long contracts are approved.

Support of Poseidon’s desalination at stake in water board election - Oct. 4, 2020

]Orange County Register, Martin Wisckol

“We don’t need the water,” Elliott said. “At least not yet. … The current terms sheet forces the ratepayers to pay for this water at three times the normal rate, whether it is needed or not.”

[Michael Elliott, incumbent challenging Cathy Green for Orange County Water District on Nov. 3.

Orange County desalination project doesn’t pencil out - Oct. 1, 2020

CalMatters Commentary

By Charming Evelyn, chair of the Water Committee and vice chair of the Environmental Justice Committee at Sierra Club Angeles Chapter

To make sure that all Californians can count on having water access now and in the future, we have to tackle the climate and affordability crises together, not fix one at the expense of the other. 

Right now, Poseidon is pushing to get friendlier regulators appointed to the Santa Ana water board that must grant a permit for the plant to operate. They have tried to win friends at every level of government, even hiring former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer to help push their project. 

Will Gov. Newsom Replace Poseidon Desal Project Critic on OC Regional Water Board? - Sept. 28, 2020

Voice of Orange County, Brandon Pho

Sean Bothwell, an attorney with environmental advocacy group OC Coastkeeper, said there’s a need for von Blasingame to stay on the board, and a need for “the commitment to prioritize the public interest above corporate profits…The only reason to remove (von Blasingame) right now is for political reasons.”

 “It would be a shame to remove such a valued member over one project when we know we need him for the long term,” said Azul Deputy Director Andrea Leon Grossman.

Vote delayed on Poseidon desalination plant in Huntington Beach - Sept. 17, 2020

Los Angeles Times, Matt Szabo

Among the issues that Poseidon requested more time to address were the need and cost of desalinated water, the Orange County Water District’s commitment to purchase the supply, the harm to marine life caused by the facility’s intake process and whether the Bolsa Chica wetlands marine life mitigation plan satisfies California’s requirements for seawater desalination plants.

Key vote delayed on Poseidon desalination plan for Huntington Beach - Sept. 17, 2020

Orange County Register, Martin Wisckol

To compensate for the sea life that will be killed in that process, Poseidon originally proposed restoring 5.7 acres of wetlands at Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, enhancing water circulation there and paying for dredging of the estuary’s inlet.

But board members were concerned that too much mitigation credit was being given for the dredging, which they said is a maintenance project that does not increase total wetlands acreage.

Poseidon's Huntington Beach desalination plant still in choppy waters - Aug. 6, 2020

Los Angeles Times, Bettina Boxall

During its long quest for approval, Poseidon has cultivated political support with lobbying, campaign contributions and the lure of drought-proof water supplies. Its promise of several thousand construction jobs and new tax revenue has rallied labor support.

 

But environmental groups have fought the company, arguing that it is privatizing a public resource and has failed to adapt an old proposal to new state ocean protections.

 

“How can you tell us you have an identified need for water when what you’re going to do with it is entirely speculative?” regional water board member Daniel Selmi asked an official of the Orange County Water District, Poseidon’s prospective customer.

Questions Over Water Official Who Took Money from Interests Pushing Desal Project She’s Voting On - Aug. 3, 2020

Voice of OC, Brandon Pho

Environmental activists say they have identified thousands more in contributions that are connected to Poseidon’s project that state regulators should have considered as connected but didn’t.

 

They argue [Kris} Murray should recuse herself because of the campaign cash nexus, saying they don’t believe there is any way that Murray — in her role as a regulator — could consider the project with an open mind, much less vote against it. Murray, in turn, has publicly disagreed with that notion, saying she hasn’t made up her mind.

Poseidon Water’s Desalination Plan: Are There Cracks in the Armor? - May 28, 2020

By Parimal Rohit, The Log

One of the biggest concerns raised during the May 15 workshop was OCWD’s role as the buyer of Poseidon’s desalinated water. Board members – in addition to asking specific questions about the need for desalinated water and raising concerns about environmental aspects of the project – wondered if OCWD, which acts as a wholesaler, had sufficient distribution in place to move the water.

 

An inability to distribute the desalinated water to OCWD’s member agencies could result in higher rates for customers – all while the extra supply of water ends up being stored in the ground.

MWD Should Focus on Climate-Resilient Strategies - May 22, 2020

by Adriana Maestas and Andrea León Grossmann, LA Progressive

The proposed Poseidon desalination plant would be subject to sea-level rise and would be powered by fossil fuels. This project is often touted as being climate-resilient, but it’s not. By the end of the 30-year take or pay proposed contract between Poseidon and the Orange County Water District, the plant would be turned over to the county, so it will have to deal with a dinosaur (old technology) that needs decommissioning, and the investors behind this plant would be off the hook.

Conservation and maximizing efficiency are among the least environmentally harmful ways to boost our water supply. They are also among the most cost-effective climate-resistant strategies.

Regulators Express Concerns About Huntington Beach Desalination Plant - May 15, 2020

by Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register

“It looks like you don’t have a home for this water,” [regional board member William] von Blasingame said. “You’re going to scrounge around for a home. And if you don’t find it, you’re going to inject it into the ground.”

“We’re asking the consumer to shoulder this burden at a time when they’re already stressed,” said regional board Chairman William Ruh, referencing the coronavirus-induced recession.

Online-Only Public Comment for Poseidon Desalination Plant Public Hearing Draws Criticism - May 15, 2020

by Brandon Pho, Voice of OC

Andrea Leon-Grossman of Latino environmental activist group Azul noted concern with the fact that the public comment process is essentially happening online only….

She also expressed concern with the fact that the meeting was happening in the morning, between “9-5 hours” when many members of the public who would be impacted by a decision on the plant — namely, non-English speaking people — were out at work, or while disadvantaged communities “don’t have good WiFi access or the technology to participate.”

Poseidon’s Desalination Plant Threatens Our Climate and Human Right to Clean Water - May 13, 2020

Voice of OC Community Opinion by Adriana Maestas, Oscar Rodriguez, and Espe Vielma

As California continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, leaders must ensure fundamental human rights like clean water. It is essential that we do not allow this crisis to tip the scales in favor of polluters and private water corporations.

Sadly, an OpEd published by the Voice of O.C. just before COVID-19 took hold allowed Jose Barrera, a Sacramento staffer of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), to do just that. The piece regurgitated the misleading talking points of a corporation called Poseidon that is pushing a wasteful, destructive oceanwater desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

Poseidon Workshop Delayed Because of Coronavirus - March 19, 2020

by Parimal Rohit, The Log

Poseidon Water obtained its first-ever permit for its Huntington Beach desalination plant project in 2006; the permit was renewed in 2012. The 2012 permit renewal, which would have allowed Poseidon to discharge 60.3 million gallons of wastewater daily, was set to expire in February 2017.

 

Several modifications – which the Water Board determined to be material – to the project were proposed since the 2012 permit renewal. The 2012 permit, accordingly, was deemed to be “no longer valid” by the Water Board – setting up the current public process, where Poseidon hopes to gain a renewed permit to allow it to move forward with its desalination plans in Huntington Beach.

Poseidon Desal Plant Gets Fresh Analysis, but Coronavirus Delays Friday Meeting - March 13, 2020

by Martin Wisckol, Orange County Register

Opponents of the desalination plant, who initially focused on environmental concerns, have increasingly questioned whether the desalinated water is needed — particularly since a 2018 study by the Municipal Water District of Orange County analyzed several proposed water projects and future water demands.

The Municipal Water District study predicts that in the best case scenario there would be no shortages in the central and north portions of the county using existing sources. In the worst case, there would be shortages of 22,000 acre-feet annually — less than half of what Poseidon intends to produce and sell on a year-round basis.

Poseidon Desalination Would Worsen Environmental Injustice in Orange County - March 4, 2020

Voice of OC Community Opinion by Adriana Maestas

What would California be without the beach? I grew up in Irvine with an awareness of how fortunate we are to live near the ocean. As a child, my parents and babysitters took me and my brother to Corona Del Mar and Newport Beach frequently during the summer. I have many happy memories of enjoying the waves at “our beaches” while bodysurfing, building sandcastles, and seeing fish, anemones, sandcrabs, dolphins and jellyfish! We also took school field trips to Crystal Cove to learn about the ecosystem. These experiences taught me to respect the ocean and to understand that it is alive, a home for sea life and people.

Possible Water Board Hearing on Desalination Plant is Nearing - February 20, 2020

by Parimal Rohit, The Log

The public was allowed to continue submitting comments to the Water Boards through Jan. 21 of this year. The Log obtained a 14-page letter submitted to the board on behalf of dozens of organizations, in opposition to the Poseidon desalination plant. Some of the organizations who signed on to the letter included California Coastkeeper Alliance, Orange County Coastkeeper, Natural Resources Defense Council, Surfrider Foundation, Heal The Bay, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Sierra Club and Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust.

 

The opposition letter stated the draft desalination plant permit in front of the Water Boards does not minimize marine life mortality and fails to meet the requirements of California’s Ocean Plan Amendment.