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State Water Board Says Poseidon Permit Invalidated by Statewide Desalination Policy

Environmental groups pleased to withdraw appeal in light of revoked permit

ORANGE COUNTY, August 27, 2015 — Citing new statewide rules, a coalition of environmental and community organizations has withdrawn its appeal of a temporary operating permit issued to Poseidon Resources by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board to operate a proposed ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach. Residents for Responsible Desalination, Orange County Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation withdrew their appeal of Poseidon’s permit after the State Water Resources Control Board confirmed that Poseidon must apply for a new permit that is consistent with its new statewide rules on seawater desalination.

According to Merle Moshiri, president of Residents for Responsible Desalination: “This news came just in time. Orange County Water District is working on a contract to buy the desalination water under the assumption that Poseidon has all their permits – now it’s clear they need to reapply for their NPDES permit from the Regional Water Board to comply with the new state policy on desalination plant development.”

Poseidon’s temporary permit would have allowed it to use the seawater intake and discharge system–currently used for cooling the AES power plant in Huntington Beach‒ to convert seawater into drinking water.

The system, which kills all of the marine life larvae contained in its over 100 million gallon daily intake of seawater, is banned as of 2020 by a State Water Board rule for power plants adopted in 2011. New rules governing its possible use for seawater desalination plants were adopted by the State Water Resources Control Board on May 5 and, according to a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board to the coalition of environmental and community organizations that was released today, Poseidon’s temporary permit has expired and has been effectively revoked.

“We have been warning Poseidon and anyone who would listen that this day would come,” said Orange County Coastkeeper Associate Director Ray Hiemstra. “First we predicted the AES power plant would have to stop killing marine life and be upgraded to modern technology. When that requirement came down in 2011, we warned Poseidon and local water agencies that similar rules requiring the best technology to minimize marine life mortality would apply to Poseidon, and that has now been confirmed.”

“The State Water Board’s permit revocation confirms what the coalition of Poseidon opponents has been saying for years: that, despite repeated claims by Poseidon that it had acquired all permits except for approval by the Coastal Commission, the desalination plant developer is still far from acquiring the necessary permits,” explained Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation’s attorney Livia Borak.

“That long expected action will help protect California’s marine life,” says Stefanie Sekich-Quinn of the Surfrider Foundation. “We were pleased when the State finally adopted rules clarifying the requirement to protect our coast and ocean from the development of poorly designed desalination plants along our coast. Now we look forward to the State enforcing those new rules–and Poseidon finally getting the message that they can’t use inferior and outdated technology.”