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Commentary: Barbara Boxer’s desalination plant lobbying betrays her legacy

Poseidon Water wants to build a large seawater desalination plant on the site of the AES Huntington Beach Generating Station and use the power plant’s ocean intake pipe to draw 106 million gallons a day from the sea.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As Orange County’s smarter conservatives – including some on the O.C. Water District board – begin to realize what an unnecessary, unaffordable piece of corporate welfare Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant is, the Boston-based hedge fund group has begun to focus its bottomless lobbying resources at liberals and Democrats instead (“Barbara Boxer will lobby for an environmentally controversial desalination plant in Huntington Beach,” April 19).

Heads spun, in bewilderment and dismay, to see how quickly liberal icon and four-term Sen. Barbara Boxer morphed, at the age of 76, into a paid Poseidon lobbyist, betraying in one fell swoop at least two of her proudest legacies.

First, Boxer had become known over her 36 years in Congress as the staunchest of consumer advocates — always fighting to protect the little guy from corporate greed and destructiveness, from medical malpractice to dangerous toys to bank bailouts. How could someone with this record try to foist the Poseidon boondoggle onto Orange County taxpayers?

Is she even aware of all the dirty details of the proposal? The subsidies Poseidon demands to ensure its profits? The 50-year “take-or-pay” contract forcing us to buy their overpriced water when we want it and when we don’t? The basic fact that desal is not only unnecessary but also one of the most expensive, energy-intensive methods of producing drinking water known to mankind? Maybe she just thinks the people of this county can afford anything.


Second, the senator has always been known as a fierce advocate for the environment. For this longtime defender of California’s atmosphere, coastline and fisheries to grant her green blessing to this project is baffling.

Her self-justifications do not, so to speak, hold water. The form letter she’s been sending all her critics posits a zero-sum game in which, if we don’t build this billion-dollar sea life-slaughtering desal plant, we’ll be doomed to a world of fish-slaughtering dams – when, in fact, we can do without either.

She crows of the plant being “carbon-neutral” – a notorious shell game in which they can pump pollution into our atmosphere while buying “carbon credits” and passing the cost on to us. And the former senator’s indifference to creating a hyper-salinated dead zone along Huntington Beach’s coast is jarring, given her long history of protecting other parts of California’s coast from oil spills and pollution.

Anyone familiar with the career of Boxer’s fellow Democratic Poseidon lobbyist Fábian Núñez, a former state Assembly speaker, is not surprised to see him running after money. The enthusiasm of the building trades unions for the project is understandable, given their desperation for any construction jobs, even short-term.But it is a real shame, a mortification, to see someone with the record of Boxer being so easily bamboozled, bought, or both.


Vern Nelson, a Huntington Beach native and Anaheim musician, runs the Orange Juice Blog.