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For Immediate Release
January 25, 2017
Big Water finds an ally in the Trump Administration
Billion dollar Huntington Beach boondoggle makes Trump’s priority list, complete with alternative facts
Sacramento, CA – Yesterday, McClatchy News reported that President Trump’s team has compiled a list of 50 "Emergency and National Security Projects." Given the document’s title, water and consumer advocates were surprised to see the proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant—which Orange County Water District’s own analyses show is unnecessary given current supplies—included. Trump’s team also got the price tag wrong—listing the cost as $350 million instead of $1 billion.
“The inclusion of an unnecessary billion-dollar for-profit desalination plant in President Trump’s list of priority projects is sad in light of the need for better water infrastructure in rural parts of California that currently lack access to safe drinking water,“ said Dan Jacobson of Environment California.
Orange County’s April 2016 water plan shows that the county can meet all water needs through 2040 without the plant. The plan also shows a healthy surplus through 2040 for Metropolitan, the agency that supplies imported water for Southern California communities. Poseidon wants Orange County Water District to sign a 50-year contract that puts local ratepayers on the hook for buying the county’s most expensive water, whether they need it or not. And all the data we have suggests they will not. So how did the plant get to be on Trump’s priority list?
“Poseidon was acquired last year by Brookfield Infrastructure, a foreign-owned firm that is spending money freely to win support for this plant,” said Marce Gutierrez-Graudins of Azul. “Just as we have Big Oil pressuring elected officials to greenlight their projects, we now have Big Water trying to ram through sweetheart deals that don’t benefit California’s communities, with support from a Trump administration that has already shown its regard for public and environmental health.”
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 20% more than imported water with a public subsidy, and twice as much without. 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.
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. In a state that is leading the nation on energy efficiency and climate action, this plant simply does not make sense.
“Desalinated water is a bad deal for consumers,” said Jason Pfeifle of CALPIRG. “Following the lead of Trump’s team would be putting profits for Poseidon and its parent corporation above the best interest of Orange County’s people.”
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