Thursday, August 14, 2008


Coastal Commission Decision on Poseidon-Carlsbad Desal

photo of proposed Carlsbad location for desalination plant
The Coastal Commission recently voted to approve two important "conditions" that will be required for the ocean desalination facility proposed by Poseidon Resources to be built in Carlsbad California. The Commission got it wrong.

Two very important potential environmental impacts from ocean desalination are the destruction of marine life in the seawater intake and the additional greenhouse gases created by this highly energy intensive process. The two conditions on the permit were SUPPOSED to address these issues -- but didn't do it adequately.

Surfrider Foundation is not strictly opposed to ocean desalination. However, we know that other alternatives to managing our fresh water supplies are far superior when you consider all the environmental costs and benefits. For example, purifying wastewater from our coastal sewage treatment plants can provide a safe and reliable source of fresh water and eliminate ocean discharges. Our new Ocean Friendly Gardens program is something every homeowner and local government can do to eliminate our current waste of fresh water and dramatically reduce polluted runoff. Watershed restoration, "treatment wetlands", "green streets" programs, low impact development standards, and many more options will conserve water while reducing pollution and restoring coastal habitat. These multi-benefit alternatives should be fully implemented before we consider the need for ocean desalination. San Diego County could have greatly expanded these efforts first -- but they didn’t.

If, after all these preferable alternatives are implemented, the area still needs a desalination plant to fill a niche in their water supply portfolios, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it.

First, Surfrider Foundation has actively supported the development of "sub-seafloor" intakes as an alternative to open ocean intakes like the one proposed by Poseidon Resources. These sub-seafloor intakes eliminate the marine life mortality that cannot be avoided by open ocean intakes and reduce energy demand because this “source water” is already partially pre-filtered. Poseidon didn't use sub-seafloor intakes and the Coastal Commission didn’t compel it like they should have. Instead, the condition on the permit requires woefully inadequate "mitigation" to try and restore the fish that Poseidon could have avoided killing in the first place.

We are also concerned that the extra energy demand from ocean desalination, and the associated global warming impacts, be minimized and fully mitigated. Again, Poseidon built a much larger facility than would have been necessary if the water agencies had prioritized the preferable alternatives listed above. To make matters even worse, the Coastal Commission did not require full mitigation for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by this facility. Instead they allowed every loophole Poseidon requested.

In short, the Coastal Commission completely ignored the recommendations of many environmental organizations, respected scientists, and concerned local citizens. We couldn't have been more disappointed in the Coastal Commission's obvious politically-motivated decision. But, we will continue to make our case before the California State Lands Commission and the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board – two more agencies that need to sign-off on this ill-conceived desalination proposal.

by Joe Geever

Photo provided by Copyright (C) 2002-2008 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project,


Monday, August 11, 2008


Plastics Legislation Updates

Statewide environmental bills have faced a tough time getting any traction in Sacramento due to the huge state deficit. Congressmen are reluctant to pass anything with an appropriations component. Thus, AB 2058 (aimed at encouraging the use of reusable shopping bags) wanes in Senate Appropriations. Read more about it here: and here:

Here is the latest on SB 1625 (aimed at increasing plastic bottle recycling):

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


AB 2058 put in Senate Appropriations Suspense File

AB 2058, a bill that would prohibit a store from providing plastic carryout bags to customers unless the store (1) demonstrates an increased diversion rate of 70 percent in the total number of plastic carryout or (2) charges the customer at least 25 cents per plastic bag, was placed on suspense in the Senate Appropriations committee on Monday, August 4th. Meanwhile, the American Chemistry Council, who represents the plastics industry, and bag manufacturers are funding a campaign in opposition to AB 2058. They have pruchased radio spots on stations throughout California. Now is the time to ask your Senator to take this bill out of the suspense file and vote on this important anti-plastic debris legislation:

AB 2058 would specify that revenues from the plastic bag fee would be used by the store for plastic carryout bag recycling, cleanup, and waste reduction programs, and 3 percent of the monies would be deposited into the Integrated Waste Management Account for use by the Integrated Waste Management Board (IWMB) for the administration and enforcement of the provisions of this law.

For more information on the bill, click here.


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