January 29 2010

Poseidon Lies: The Truth about Poseidon Resources’ “Carbon Neutrality” Part 1

by Belinda Smith

Our coast and oceans are threatened by global warming. Ocean acidification and sea level rise are ALREADY impacting the bounty of marine life, eroding our beaches, and threatening our local water supplies from seawater intrusion – among a host of other threats. California has committed to reverse this trend – and we should be proud of our State for stepping up and doing the right thing. But talk is cheap. Actually addressing the cause of global warming and all the adverse impacts it will have on a healthy environment and sustainable economy takes action. NOW IS THE TIME!

Poseidon Resources is proposing to build the largest ocean desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere in Carlsbad, California. This facility will require an enormous amount of energy to operate. So, as part of the State’s approval of the project, they are required to ensure the project is “carbon neutral” – Poseidon is required to mitigate the greenhouse gases the plant will create through the enormous energy demand. They aren’t living up to that requirement.

We are arguing that Poseidon intentionally withheld information that resulted in an erroneous greenhouse gas mitigation condition in their Coastal Development Permit that was issued in 2007. That information was contained in a draft contract between San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) that was available to Poseidon in 2005.

As part of the permit, the Coastal Commission required Poseidon to offset the greenhouse gases that would result from such an energy intensive project. In response, Poseidon calculated their “net” emissions by arguing that the water they produced would “replace” water being imported to the San Diego region from the Sacramento Delta. Poseidon then calculated the energy demand from their ocean desal facility, and subtracted the energy it would take to pump water all the way from the Delta – their proposed “net” energy demand. Then they took that energy demand (the total energy demand of the facility, minus the energy to pump the water that was arguably being “replaced”) and calculated how much “net” greenhouse gasses would be emitted to produce the water.

We discovered after the permit was issued (2007) that SDCWA had entered into a draft contract in 2005 to get subsidy funding from MWD to offset some of the costs of this project. That subsidy comes from a pool of money contributed to MWD by water supply agencies all over the southern California region.
The contract made it clear that the Poseidon project WOULD NOT replace water being pumped from the Delta. The draft contract specifically said the water had to “augment” MWD’s total supply portfolio (not “replace” part of it). It was also explicit in the terms of the draft contract that MWD would retain all it’s rights to the Delta water – and use them.

Since we filed the Request for Revocation, the CCC has received a letter from SDCWA and MWD explaining that MWD will occasionally enter into agreements to “transfer” water rights – and the water Poseidon produces may replace the need to do that. Ironically, this just bolsters our argument that Poseidon’s product water will not “replace” regional supplies delivered from the Delta to southern California. Consequently, their “net” GHG calculation is wrong.

Poseidon argues that, even if the water only “replaces” demand from the 9 water agencies that will buy it, and the rest goes to other agencies in the region – the other agencies should have to mitigate the greenhouse gases the project creates. Poseidon argues that this mitigation by the other agencies (they don’t say who they are or how we would ever know they got the “extra” water) are mandated by CEQA to mitigate the GHG emissions – so making Poseidon do it now would result in “double counting.” We disagree.

Here's our proof.

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