Back in August the Fullerton Rag criticized Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva for joining other state lawmakers in signing a letter of support to the California Coastal Commission for Poseidon Water’s dismally ill-conceived plans for a desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The Sierra Club, who endorsed Sharon Quirk-Silva’s 2012 election bid, considers the proposed project so environmentally destructive that they have dedicated an entire campaign to defeat it.
Later that month Vern Nelson reported in the Orange Juice Blog that Ms. Quirk-Silva had agreed to sign the letter to support labor interests who want the construction jobs, but had “immediately regretted allowing her name to be used, and tried to rescind her signature.” The OJ Blog went on to say that following the “firestorm” resulting from news of her support, she “made the decision to again oppose the project as she had in the past.” Vern credited her with having the courage to admit she had made a mistake.
The OJ Blog article closed with this paragraph: “Along with brilliant environmentalist and energy expert Debbie Cook, Sharon will hold a Water Townhall some time in October. Watch this blog for more details. And yay Sharon! Welcome back to the good side.”
I too welcomed Ms. Quirk-Silva’s reported change of heart, but when October arrived with no news of a Water Townhall I emailed both Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office and former Huntington Beach Mayor and Poseidon desal opponent Debbie Cook to ask when we might expect the program. Ms. Cook wrote that she was busy planning for the November 13 or 14 California Coastal Commission hearing to consider approval of Poseidon’s desalination plant. It’s a very important meeting, because if the Coastal Commission approves the plant, legal action could be the only way to stop it. She referred me to Adan Ortega, a former member of Fullerton’s Water Rate Adhoc Committee, who was recently appointed by Governor Brown to the California Water Commission. Mr. Ortega wrote that the Townhall was planned for December, and that he had been “asked to help with an overall water related townhall that looks past Poseidon and their project as it pertains to Quirk-Silva’s district.”
A good discussion about California’s long-term water strategies would be welcome, but I was quite disappointed to learn that it would not occur until sometime after the Coastal Commission’s decision about Poseidon’s desalination plant. The Surfrider Foundation calls desalination “the most energy-intensive and expensive water supply option in California,” and notes that its energy use increases “greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to sea level rise and ocean acidification.”
Sharon Quirk-Silva’s office never responded to my email, but a phone call to a staffer confirmed that the Townhall was planned for late November or December, and that the event would consider water issues at the state and regional level. There was no location identified for it yet.
I asked whether or not, in fact, Sharon Quirk-Silva supported or opposed the Poseidon desalination plant. I was told that she “had reservations” and “mixed feelings about it,” but that “her name was still on the letter” of support for it, and that she had not asked to have it removed.
Sharon Quirk-Silva should not ignore the economic and environmental damage Poseidon Water’s desalination plant would cause, even if it is not planned for the 65th District she represents. Scheduling a Water Townhall program after the Coastal Commission has already made its decision about Poseidon’s plant suggests that it is more of a diversion from an awkward political position than a serious discussion about solutions for the region’s water needs.