It’s rare, difficult, and refreshing for a lawmaker to admit making a mistake, and attempt to rectify it. I remember back in 2009 when Assemblyman Solorio realized that he’d made a big mistake voting to authorize the sale of the OC Fairgrounds, and immediately set to work leading the charge to undo that damage, gradually being followed by all the other OC legislators, who came out one by one like a series of dominoes against the Great Fairgrounds Swindle. But Jose did look really good with his humble admission and determination to rectify his error.
Sharon’s signing, earlier this month, of a letter supporting Posideon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, was not substantively such a big deal – it was just a letter of support with no legislative weight, and she is still in her first year in the assembly – but it was another feather in Poseidon’s cap. She told me that she almost immediately regretted allowing her name to be used, and tried to rescind her signature, but it was too late.
Well, you ask, why DID she sign a letter of support for a project she had originally opposed? First of all, it was not an issue she had been following closely, as she represents the northernmost part of the OC far from Huntington, and also did not expect the matter to ever come before the assembly. Also, she had been MISINFORMED that the Huntington Beach Council had voted once again in favor of the project. (What actually happened at that May meeting was confusing, but five out of seven councilmembers actually wrote to the Coastal Commission asking them to deny Poseidon’s permits – See “HB Council Respectfully Asks Coastal Commission to Shitcan Poseidon.“)
But what really drove her to briefly support the plant was the pleas from the Buildings Trade Unions for 2,000 promised jobs that would come with the project. To Sharon this was a powerful argument, as her own north-county district has seen very little recovery from the recession and is in dire need of more employment.
But in the firestorm following that letter (which of course was signed by all OC legislators, none of whom we expect any better from except Sharon) she became aware of many reasons to oppose the plant, which outweigh the mostly temporary jobs:
- Ratepayers, who are already seeing essential utility costs rising, would experience dramatic rises in water rates for water that, according to our Urban Water Management Plans is unneeded in North Orange County. Our own Orange County Water District is producing water, using a similar process for half the cost. The OCWD has already voted to expand their innovative Ground Water Replenishment System which will deliver similar jobs, for less money, and with multiple environmental benefits.
- Ocean desalination is not without environmental consequences. The project as proposed would use open ocean intakes to take in well over 100 million gallons per day of sea water and all the marine life it contains to produce 50 million gallons per day of potable water. Over 50 million gallons of brine (with all life removed) would be dumped back into the ocean. The plant itself would require a constant 34 mega watts of power (enough for a small city) at a time when the state is directing a response to climate change. In fact, all cities have been directed to reduce water consumption 20% by 2020.
- North Orange County has many options to deal with water supply and demand. All of them are preferable to ocean desalination. All are less costly. All offer multiple benefits and the potential for thousands of permanent jobs as opposed to temporary jobs.
To those arguments (formulated by Sharon’s good friend Debbie Cook) I would add these, from a fiscally conservative / good government point of view:
- The incompetent company is demanding taxpayer subsidies;
- The incompetent company has yet to produce a successful plant, and the least we can do is wait and see how their Carlsbad project turns out;
- The incompetent company wants us to guarantee their profits by signing “take or pay” agreements, whereby we agree to purchase their more expensive water BEFORE any other less expensive water, whether we need it or not; and
- The general secrecy and dishonesty, the bribery and threats, with which Poseidon conducts itself.
So, on consideration of all these concerns, Sharon made the decision to again oppose the project as she had in the past. She will continue to be a great ally to labor in most cases, but this is just one case where the public interest outweighs the two thousand (mostly temporary) jobs that the project promises.
She has instructed Poseidon’s Vice President to stop using her name in support of their project, so if you do hear them continuing to claim they have the unanimous support of the OC’s Sacramento delegation, you will know they are lying; AND
Along with brilliant environmentalist and energy expert Debbie Cook, Sharon will hold a Water Townhall some time in October. Watch this blog for more details. And yay Sharon! Welcome back to the good side.