By John Earl
UPDATE (Oct. 17): OC Register reporter Greg Mellen has produced a copy of the letter from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to the California State Lands Commission (SLC) about the proposed Poseidon Resources ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
Originally, when asked by Debbie Cook (see story below) for a copy of the letter (the basis for his story saying that Feinstein supported the project), Mellen produced a Poseidon press release containing quoted excerpts of the letter but not the letter itself.
After I published my story (below), Mellon sent Poseidon opponent Joe Geever a copy by email of Feinstein’s letter (Mellon never responded to my request for a copy).
That letter to SLC chairman (Lt. Gov) Gavin Newsom is dated Sept 28 (not reported by Mellen), two weeks before Mellen’s story appeared in the Register. Based on how the events unfolded and the fact that Mellen’s story-quotes match excerpts used in the Poseidon press release, it’s reasonably clear that Mellen either did not read the letter he was reporting on or simply played off the Poseidon press release.
In any case, as Feinstein states in her letter (Letter – Senator Feinstein Support 2017.09.28 FINAL), that her support for the Poseidon project is conditional, a fact not reported by Mellen probably because he didn’t read the letter.
“While the water supply and other benefits of this project are clear, my support is conditioned upon its development in an environmentally safe manner that is consistent with the California Water Code Section 13142.5 (b) and State Water Resources Control Board’s Desalination Amendment to the Water Quality Control Plan for the Ocean Waters of California. As outlined in the amendment, the proposed plant must ‘use the best available, site, design, technology, and mitigation measures feasible to minimize intake and mortality of all forms of the marine life.’ ”
Feinstein’s letter states her opinion that the Poseidon project meets those standards, but project opponents hotly dispute that claim, an all-important fact (left unsaid by Mellon) that will play out at the SLC hearing on the Poseidon project this Thursday (Oct. 19).
Feinstein’s letter has its own factual problems, also unmentioned in Mellen’s story.
For example, Feinstein’s letter states that the Poseidon project, which would make 50 million gallons (mgd) of drinking water per day, would be “expanding upon” the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenish System, “and reducing demand on climate-dependent imported water.”
But the GWRS, which already produces 100 mgd of drinking water — at less than half the cost of what Poseidon’s water — is already set to expand by another 30 mgd in the near future. Also, it is a long-established fact (ignored by project proponents) that the Poseidon project will not result in decreased water imports from northern California.
Feinstein also states that the Poseidon project water would “meet a documented demand within Orange County,” but in a letter (MWDOC letter 9-14-17) to the SLC, Robert Hunter, general manager for the Municipal Water District of Orange County, referring to the district’s Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) and its recent water Reliability Study, concluded that:
“Some projects make greater and more cost-effective contributions to reliability – paramount among these in our estimation is the California WaterFix. Thus, the Poseidon project is only one of several different projects that can provide that [water] supply, but neither the UWMP nor the Reliability Study state that the Poseidon project is specifically necessary to meet Orange County’s future water supply needs.”
By John Earl
I have written enough about the OC Register’s shilling for the proposed Poseidon Resources billion-dollar ocean desalination scam (stories that promote Poseidon push-polls) that I am not surprised by its latest PR blow-job written by reporter Greg Mellen.
Mellen’s story, “Sen. Dianne Feinstein lends support to Huntington Beach desalination project,” published online Oct. 12, is timed by Poseidon for release just before the company’s land lease will be considered by the State Lands Commission on Oct. 19 in the Huntington Beach City Council Chambers.
Mellen quotes a purported letter of support for the project written by Feinstein, but there’s just one problem: unknown to Mellen’s readers, nobody, including Mellen, can give a copy of the entire letter–only selective quotes from it are given, and apparently (based on a web search) only by the OC Register and the OC Breeze, a public-relations website.
At press time, the letter doesn’t appear on Poseidon’s website, nor is it on Sen. Feinstein’s website, which lists her recent press releases. Poseidon Resources did not respond when I asked for a full copy of the letter.
Mellen did not respond to my email asking if he had read the entire alleged letter and if he could send me a copy. However, he did respond to Debbie Cook, former Huntington Beach mayor and a leading opponent of the Poseidon project, not with the letter but with a Poseidon press release sent by Poseidon to the Register. It also selectively quotes the alleged Feinstein letter but doesn’t show an actual copy of it, yet it is the source of the Register’s story.
Unless Mellen read the real Feinstein letter (there is no mention that he contacted the senator), he failed to verify the main source of his breaking story.
Because Mellen failed to do his job, readers really don’t know if the Feinstein letter exists (as of press time there is no solid evidence that it does) or, if it does exist, if it has been quoted in context by Poseidon and the Register.