Fabricating Extremism

by Livia Borak

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When the proponents of a project want to do something that damages the environment, there’s a big bag of tricks to draw from. Often it’s over-simplification of our complex ecosystem or over-confidence in our ability to quantify and mitigate every risk. Sometimes it’s the myth that any project, no matter how risky, can be carried out so long as it’s done ‘responsibly.

Despite our many advances in technology and science, as far as environmentalists are concerned, some projects are just off limits. They simply can never be done responsibly. The lists of taboos vary between organizations, but they often overlap when projects have numerous negative impacts. One such project is the private Carlsbad Desalination Project, which Poseidon Resources has been trying to build since 1998. After more than a decade of troubled permitting, lawsuits, and contract disputes, Poseidon still faces current (and probably future) litigation over the negative environmental impacts of the plant.

Also blocking this behemoth project are financing challenges. Last week, the County Water Authority held a hearing on terms that bring its negotiations closer to a water purchase agreement with Poseidon. At this hearing, former Carlsbad Mayor and long-time Poseidon supporter Bud Lewis reached into that reliable bag of tricks and pulled out the marginalization card, offering his take on the ‘real’ reason for environmentalists’ continued opposition to the project: to prevent more people moving to California. Water is a necessary resource for the economy, which creates jobs, bringing more people to California. So according to Mr. Lewis, we environmentalists don’t want to make new friends and so we’ve been fighting this new water supply option.

Ask Michele Bachmann or Rick Parry to confirm Mr. Lewis’ suspicions. They have it on good authority that environmentalists cause wildfires and recessions. Not to mention disdain for apple pie and America.

Despite Mr. Lewis’ theory, environmentalists actually want everyone to have access to clean air and water, which is precisely why we all have to live within our planet’s environmental means. When it comes to local water supply, this has been a cry trumpeted by the Water Authority as well as environmentalists. We disagree, however, with the notion that we have to build an environmentally destructive, energy-intensive $700 million industrial plant to churn out drinking water at the expense of marine life just so our front yards look like putting greens. Certainly not while San Diegans still aren’t conserving as much as we can and should be.

That is why environmental groups are voicing opposition to this project. We simply don’t support — or see a need for — a project that’s harmful to marine life and uses more energy than any other water supply option; especially only to turn around and watch it exacerbate our water supply problems through global warming. Maybe if Mr. Lewis acknowledged these real issues, he’d realize we don’t need to fabricate our environmental concerns. There are plenty to choose from.

Livia Borak is an attorney at Coast Law Group, LLP in Encinitas where she focuses on a variety of environmental issues representing various non-profit organizations. She’s a former San Diego Coastkeeper staff attorney and member of the third-place CityBeat Trivia night team By Rolland’s Beard. She serves on the board of League of Conservation Voters and is legal advisor to the environmental nonprofit Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation. She makes killer chocolate chip vegan cookies.

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