Stop Poseidon Coalition Celebrates California Coastal Commission’s Decision to Unanimously Deny Permitting for Brookfield-Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Plant
The Commission’s 11-0 vote to reject the project was met with praise
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA (May 12, 2022) – The California-based ‘Stop Poseidon’ coalition, made up of environmental justice, coastal and ocean conservation groups, stood before the California Coastal Commission today, alongside over 300 in-person attendees, in opposition to the proposed Brookfield-Poseidon Desalination Plant.
The California Coastal Commission, comprised of 12 voting members, one who recused themselves, whose mission is to uphold the California Coastal Act, made the unanimous decision to deny the proposed desalination plant’s permitting.
The vote follows the California Coastal Commission’s staff recommendation for denial. Mid-morning during the hearing, staff detailed the Commission’s own Coastal Act Environmental Justice policy, noting communities have not been meaningfully engaged because Poseidon does not have a water buyer and hasn’t communicated with the communities in 22 cities and two-thirds are “communities of concern”. Commissioner Chair Donne Brownsey also lambasted Poseidon for producing a confusing report that was submitted overnight, past the public document submission deadline, that recommended approving the project using the Commission’s letterhead and font.
Staff continued during the hearing by saying “1.8 million low income rate payers could be impacted by higher rates and a number of injustices. The floor was then opened to presentations and public comments which proceeded to detail the injustices and avoidable consequences of the proposed plant.
The following are statements from members of the Stop Poseidon coalition following Thursday’s decision:
“Today was a good day, it’s a day where the Elders of our community truly felt that they have been heard and considered in a space where they have not been in the past. Thank you to the California Coastal Commission and its staff for supporting us in stopping and denying the the Poseidon Desalination Project permit request in Huntington Beach California,” said Frankie Orona of the Society of Native Nations, Environmental liaison for Chief Anthony Morales of the Gabrieleno Tongva Tribe of the San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians.
“This victory for sustainable water would not have been possible without the continued advocacy of Orange County residents and water warriors across the state,” said Garry Brown, founder and president of Orange County Coastkeeper. “Orange County Coastkeeper is delighted with the denial of the Poseidon project. The Coastal Commission staff has again proven themselves to be the most logical of all the agencies. We thank the Coastal Commissioners for their resistance to the enormous political pressure that was brought to them. It was never a good idea for Huntington Beach, but shady money kept the project going for more than 20 years—all without a guaranteed customer or permit to build. ”
“We are proud that the Coastal Commission had the courage to stand up to this corporate behemoth and deny the project,” said Sean Bothwell, executive director of California Coastkeeper Alliance. “It is time we move past this ill-conceived project and start working towards developing cheaper and more sustainable water supply options for California.”
“Today the Coastal Commission upheld their duty to protect California’s coast and ocean from harmful development. This is why we have the California Coastal Act in the first place, to review coastal development independent from politics and profits and protect our precious coast for all people,” said Mandy Sackett, California policy coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. “Approving this plant would have irreparably undermined the state’s environmental justice commitments, climate change goals and sea level rise adaptation policies, all while setting a terrible precedent for future coastal development. We can now move forward, as planned, by restoring California’s marine ecosystems, moving industry off the coast and developing smart, sustainable, local water supplies.”
“The Coastal Commission’s vote to deny the Brookfield-Poseidon project coastal development permits sends a clear message that the Commission will do what is right to protect sensitive communities and habitats in California,” said Andrea León-Grossmann, director of Climate Action at Azul. “Californians are all greener and healthier for this decision and Azul encourages the legislature and agencies to focus on water conservation, efficiency, reuse, and recycling, while also developing mitigation and adaptation plans for climate change and sea-level rise. The proposed desal plant was fossil-fuel burning, obsolete technology, with a carbon footprint the size of 40,000 homes, that would have killed marine life year-round, costing taxpayers and ratepayers alike. Today, the commission showed the environmental justice laws of the state of California and the environmental justice policy of the Commission itself were not just words on a page, but living, breathing pledges to do what was right, despite the political pressure.”
“The Coastal Commissioners deserve tremendous credit for following the law and protecting the coast from this terrible special interest project. Poseidon would have killed more than 5 billion small ocean animals, overcharged ratepayers by more than $1 billion, and failed to provide increased water supplies where they are needed. Thank goodness for the Coastal Act and the dedication of California’s Coastal Commissioners,” said Susan Jordan, executive director of the California Coastal Protection Network and member of the Stop Poseidon coalition.
The Commissioners voted unanimously on the project’s denial:
Donne Brownsey, Chair: Denial
Dr. Caryl Hart, Vice Chair: Denial
Carole Groom: Denial
Meagan Harmon: Denial
Sara Aminzadeh: Denial
Steve Padilla: Denial
Katie Rice: Denial
Rick Rivas (for Roberto Uranga): Denial
Effie Turnbull-Sanders: Denial
Dayna Bochco: Denial
Mike Wilson: Denial
The Stop Poseidon coalition has amassed strong solidarity and allyship in support of their work to stop the project, delivering over 12,500 petition signatures to the California Coastal Commission in opposition to the proposed Brookfield-Poseidon Desalination Plant project.
Brookfield-Poseidon, a $650 billion dollar asset management firm, has long sought approval for the private water project, which would be built with 20-year-old technology, and require $2 billion in public subsidies, including $1.1 billion that should instead support affordable housing.
The coalition believes:
- There has been a lack of tribal consultation and consultation with communities of color, who will bear the greatest burdens of the project.
- The $1.4 billion Poseidon desalination project is so expensive it will drive up water costs in Orange County by more than $100 million each year, causing water rate increases that will unfairly burden low-income residents and small businesses.
- There are more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging water supply projects to help meet Southern California’s water needs.
The coalition is made up of Azul, the California Coastkeeper Alliance, California Coastal Protection Network, Orange County Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation. The proposed Brookfield-Poseidon Huntington Beach Desalination Plant has a long history of opposition.
Learn more at California Desal Facts.
ABOUT STOP POSEIDON COALITION
Azul is a grassroots organization working with Latinxs to conserve coasts and oceans. It was founded in 2011 to bring Latinx perspectives and participation to ocean conservation and has long advocated for environmental justice and equity in the state of California, across the nation and at international levels.
California Coastkeeper Alliance represents watershed-focused California Waterkeepers as they fight for drinkable, swimmable, fishable waters for all Californians. It defends and expands California’s protective legislation and strengthens the function of our State Water Board.
California Coastal Protection Network (CCPN) works to uphold the core tenets of the California Coastal Act actively and effectively through policy, advocacy, and collaboration. We accomplish our mission by providing strong leadership to advance California’s 40-year legacy of coastal protection.
Orange County Coastkeeper was founded in 1999 with the mission to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable for present and future generations. Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of the International Waterkeeper Alliance, which has 236 different independent programs across 29 countries.
The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, for all people, through a powerful activist network.