By John Hakel
Over the Independence Day holiday, a member of the California Legislature, using the universally reviled “gut and amend” process, introduced Assembly Bill 1000, a bill with a malicious, single purpose: derail the construction of the Cadiz Water Project, a project fully certified under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will add a new, sustainable water supply to Southern California.
A reliable water supply is essential to the health of our economy and the prosperity of our communities. Yet, AB1000 targets a project that could offer one by attempting to override long-existing law governing how we move water in California. It specifically hinders the conveyance of water supplies only near the Cadiz project — a completely inappropriate and harmful use of the legislative process.
So why introduce and hear such a bill during a holiday week? It appears that rather than representing California’s citizens and working families, a state Assembly member that has never been to Cadiz or reached out to the project proponents prior to taking this action, is bowing to well-funded special interests to destructively add additional layers of new review in hopes of choking water and jobs for Southern California.
The Cadiz project aims to capture and conserve water that presently is lost to evaporation, and provide a new, reliable water supply to 100,000 families. It will also make a significant contribution to the local job market and economy. Project construction, which will be privately financed and not rely on public subsidies, is expected to create and support nearly 6,000 highly skilled, high-wage jobs during construction of both phases, including dedicated, on-site, family-supporting jobs for local trades and veterans.
Proponents of AB1000 entirely ignore these benefits and the fact that the Cadiz project already has been reviewed extensively in accordance with CEQA and our state’s groundwater and environmental laws by multiple public agencies. In fact, years of rigorous study, public comment, hearings and expert analysis concluded the Cadiz Water Project will have no negative impacts on the Mojave Desert environment. And these findings were upheld in California’s courts at the end of 2016.
Therefore, AB1000 can only be viewed as a creative means for our Legislature to damage reliable water, infrastructure and jobs in Southern California. This should concern us all.
If building projects that have been duly approved and certified in accordance with CEQA can now be singled out for legislative action when special interests don’t like the outcome, then our environmental laws mean nothing and there exists no certainty that needed projects, such as a bridge, a homeless shelter or a hospital, could ever be built here in a timely manner.
Californians are rightly proud of our robust and comprehensive environmental regulations. We are known around the world for these laws. They are a key component to responsible development. But inexplicably, our state legislators are taking up a bill on a fast track to find ways to circumvent these laws and block a California-certified project. AB1000 takes the certainty and responsibility out of the CEQA process: That is bad for workers but equally bad for the environment, since such abuse can be used by anyone now in the future, including those who’d like to eliminate environmental permits entirely.
We are part of a broad coalition of labor, construction, business, local governance, agriculture and water organizations in opposition to AB1000. We call on the Legislature to block the advancement of this hastily assembled bill and reject this measure when it is heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Letting this bill advance only communicates one message — that reliable water, jobs and infrastructure in California are not important to our state’s leaders. This is a message we encourage them to reject forcefully.
John Hakel is executive director of Southern California Partnership for Jobs, www.socalworks.org.
Source: San Bernardino Sun