This morning, news broke that Poseidon Water has hired former Senator Barbara Boxer and former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez to lobby for approval of its controversial Huntington Beach desalination proposal. The billion dollar private, for-profit project is widely opposed because it is not necessary to meet Orange County’s water needs, and because it would impose sky high economic and energy costs on area ratepayers.
Poseidon has reportedly spent millions in lobbying expenses in so-far unsuccessful attempts to secure a decades-long “take or pay” contract. The contract would lock ratepayers into buying the county’s most expensive water despite having more affordable and more readily available options.
“Poseidon really wants to profit off California’s drought fears, and they are pulling out all the stops to try to get the Huntington Beach desal plant approved” said Ray Hiemstra of Orange County Coastkeeper. “But no amount of lobbying can change the facts: this is expensive water we don’t need. Orange County can meet our water needs through smarter options like efficiency and recycling, and we have scarcely begun to tap the potential of stormwater that is currently falling all around us.”
Orange County’s April 2016 water plan shows that the county can meet all of its water needs through 2040 without the Poseidon plant. The plan also shows a healthy surplus through 2040 for Metropolitan, the agency that supplies imported water for Southern California communities.
“Poseidon was acquired last year by Brookfield Infrastructure, a foreign-owned firm that has a reputation for being ruthless in its pursuit of profits,” said Susan Jordan of California Coastal Protection Network. “Just like Big Oil lobbies to push through their projects, we are now seeing Big Water trying to score sweetheart deals on the backs of California’s communities.”
Desalination is the most expensive potential water source available to California. Poseidon’s own figures show the water from the proposed Huntington Beach plant would cost up to twice as much as imported water. A recent study by the nonpartisan Pacific Institute found that communities could save a fortune by focusing their water investments on conservation, efficiency, and recycled water instead. Orange County already has a recycled water facility that produces far more water than the proposed desalination plant for a fraction of the cost.
“When Poseidon and its lobbyists think about this plant, all they see are dollar signs. And that’s what the hard working families in communities like Oak View will see too. Except, for them, it will be dollar signs on their water bills, which are already a stretch for many families. I hope the agencies reviewing this proposal will think hard about working class ratepayers when they consider the billion dollar price tag,” said Oscar Rodriguez of Oak View ComUNIDAD.
In addition to its high cost, one of the main problems with desalination is its outsized energy use. Desalination is the most energy intensive way to produce fresh water. It takes about three times as much energy as recycling, and, in Orange County, will use enough electricity to power 30,000 homes. Poseidon’s proposal is fundamentally opposed to the state’s leadership on energy efficiency and climate action.
“This is a Wall Street water plan—conceived and supported by the wealthy with little regard for ordinary people,” said Marce Gutierrez-Graudins of Azul. “No matter what high profile lobbyists they hire, it’s still a bad deal for consumers, and we don’t need the water.”