John Earl on the Spectacular Self-Degradation of “Environmentalist” Barbara Boxer.

Vern here. Our old friend John Earl (right), who writes these days at “SoCal Water Wars” on Substack, has entitled his latest piece Barbara Boxer Made Me Happy I’m Not a Gentry Journalist. “Gentry Journalism” is something John defined in his last piece, a piece you should read NOW, entitled, “Say NO to Gentry Journalism! Independent Journalism Full Speed Ahead!”

John’s latest piece, sporting the subtitle “It was a pleasure to help defeat the self-proclaimed greatest environmentalist in California history and the greenwashing machine that paid her,” is about former Senator and self-styled environmentalist Barbara Boxer and her immediate transformation, upon retirement from the Senate, into a paid lobbyist for the loathsome and now-defeated Poseidon desalination project. Without further ado, here’s Mr. Earl!

My 2017 Encounter with Barbara Boxer at the Sacramento Press Club

by John Earl, Nov. 24, 2024; crossposted from SoCalWaterWars

Poseidon Resources (aka Poseidon Water), a subsidiary of Brookfield ($650b in assets at the time), had tried for decades to get regulatory approval to build a giant ocean desalination plant in southeast Huntington Beach.

Based on recent history, the project would have become part of a $1.4 billion public-private “financialisation” (investment) scheme much like its nearly identical Carlsbad ocean desalination plant that opened for business in 2015.

Ultimately, the HB project was unanimously rejected by the California Coastal Commission in May of 2022.

Photo: SoCal Water Wars

In 2015, in a mock interview with her grandson posted on YouTube, Senator Barbara Boxer announced that she would not run for reelection in 2016.

Lauding herself for supporting the middle-class, women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, and the environment, she pledged that “I am never going to retire” because, even though she won’t be in the Senate, “I’m going to continue working on the issues that I love.”

After her announcement, Boxer sponsored legislation to give millions of federal dollars to the ocean desalination industry for research. “I’ve known for years desalination was a solution,” she told the NY Times.

That same year, she wrote to the Coastal Commission in support of Poseidon’s HB desal project, an anathema to her usual environmentalist allies, who were now angry with her.

In April 2017, Poseidon announced it had signed up Boxer to help push its project through the state’s regulatory process.

Poseidon tried to create the impression that the project was a fait accompli and that local politicians would risk their careers by opposing it. Push-polls commissioned by Poseidon showed public support for the project and were promoted in the Orange County Register.

But Orange County rank-and-file residents who showed up at public meetings of the Orange County Water District (Poseidon’s sponsor from 2013 – 2022) to oppose the project equaled or outnumbered proponents, the latter of which included student interns, construction unions, business associations, and local politicians of both parties who had benefitted from Poseidon’s campaign contributions.

Full disclosure: the presence of opponents from all over Orange County was due to organizing by Residents for Responsible Desal (R4RD), a Huntington Beach based non-profit that I helped start in 2005. I was the group’s first president for six months before leaving to start a local newspaper, Orange Coast Voice.

R4RD’s members represented a cross section of local politics from liberal to conservative, including NIMBYs, who didn’t want their neighborhood to be torn up during two years of pipeline construction and didn’t want a desal plant there (in addition to the existing toxic waste dump and the nearby sewage treatment tanks), ratepayers concerned about the high cost of unneeded desalinated ocean water, and environmentalists worried about cumulative damage to marine life along the entire California coast from Poseidon-type desal plants to-come.

Timeless contribution of the OC Weekly

With stricter rules designed to limit the environmental impacts of ocean-desal intake and outake systems on the horizon, Poseidon’s biggest concern was obtaining operating permits from the city of Huntington Beach and the State’s regulatory agencies.

To expedite project approval, Poseidon tried to circumvent regulations, a strategy that caused long delays and ultimately led to defeat.

In the meantime, Poseidon was desperate to create a green-friendly brand for its energy-guzzling and sea-life killing machine.

Boxer’s hiring followed a ongoing strategy used by Poseidon and its labor allies of misappropriating environmentalism and co-opting environmentalists to create a green facade that would placate the media, public, and regulators…

Read more at SoCal Water Wars,
as John confronts Boxer at the Sacramento Press Club,
while her Poseidon handler Scott Maloni watches protectively from the back.

Poseidon VP Maloni, non-plussed.

The look of final defeat.

About Surf City Voice

John Earl is the editor of SoCal Water Wars (previously Surf City Voice.) Frequent contributor Debbie Cook, a former Huntington Beach Mayor, is board president of the Post Carbon Institute.