The politics surrounding SB1 are as murky as Delta water in late September.
But there is a clear story illuminated by an article today by LA Time’s veteran Sacramento-observer George Skelton. Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) has shown great courage in “standing up to a powerful new governor of her own party.”
While Governor Newsom has vowed to veto this bill, San Francisco Bay-Delta advocates today asked him to reconsider.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta said:
“We have spent 2019 working to be the voice of reason from the Delta and to build a bridge with the Newsom administration. That is all now in danger of crumbling. If Governor Newsom continues to echo the talking points of water contractors and vetoes SB1, he will allow Delta fisheries to collapse.
“SB1 is based on the 2011 biological opinions and all the related fishery management science of the Delta, and fishery protections equal water quality protections for the Delta’s 4 million people. He will be rejecting protection of the estuary and its people, plus a host of needed water quality and air quality protections for the state. He is choosing big ag and big water interests over public health and a healthy and clean environment for all Californians.
“We have tracked the Voluntary Agreements to reset flow standards for the Delta tributaries, but like other Delta public entities, were never invited to the table. When the California Department of Water Resources, and California Fish and wildlife introduced the Voluntary Agreements to the State Water Resources Control Board, they promised agreements that would be more protective of the Delta than the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan. But a veto of SB1 will open the door to make the Voluntary Agreements meaningless. We spent years working at the State Water Resources Control Board to advance a Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan that was protective of the Delta. We will not accept the imperfect Bay-Delta Water Quality Plan being replaced with a disastrous Voluntary Agreement based on a gutting of environmental protections.
Good news! California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed SB 307, protecting public lands from a groundwater pumping project which would have taken 16 billion gallons of water every year from an aquifer under the Mojave Trails National Monument. The bill puts the “Cadiz Water Project,” on hold and gives the state authority to do an environmental review to assess the impacts of the extraction on land, including sacred indigenous sites, on recreational uses, and on the desert ecosystem, including endangered species. The project, which has been pushed by Cadiz Inc. for more than two decades, was also on a Trump administration list of priorities for new infrastructure development, which led to the federal government cancelling an environmental review mandated during the Obama presidency.
SB 307 requires the State Lands Commission to determine that projects involving the transfer of water from a groundwater basin won’t adversely impact the surrounding environment, so if enforced and properly implemented it can protect other ecosystems and communities within California from adverse impacts from water extraction.
Groups organizing against the project cheered the signing, but cautioned that SB 307 slows but does not necessarily stop Cadiz, and that continued action is necessary not only to protect the Mojave area but also to fight for safe, sufficient, and affordable water and sanitation for everyone in California.
We applaud Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA-3) for his attempt to amend HR 6147, the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019. Unfortunately, this bill doesn’t just fund various federal agencies, it also contains sections that prohibit lawsuits that seek to stop the Delta Tunnels and could also prohibit groups from bringing suit to stop other damaging water infrastructure projects.
Rep. Garamendi’s bid to amend was ruled out of order, or, as he wrote in an email to constituents, “political speak for ‘we don’t like your idea, so we’re not going to give it a vote.'”
As he writes, “If H.R. 6147 were to become law, it would prohibit lawsuits against nearly all major California water projects, including the twin tunnels.” The bill would empower the California Department of Water Resources to do what they like to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and denying a day in court to more than 90 parties with lawsuits challenging various aspects of the tunnels, including local governments, water districts, and conservation groups. Other attempts to protect water, such as fighting the raising of the Shasta Dam, would also be imperiled.
STOCKTON – Restore the Delta recently acquired a series of documents contained in a Public Records Act Request (PRA) from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD or Metropolitan) that indicate respective staff members from MWD, Kern County Water Authority (KCWA), and the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCWVD) reviewed the extent to which the House Appropriations spending bill met their previously planned needs for the CA WaterFix project, including the Calvert rider—a legislative provision that would ban further judicial review of the Delta tunnels project.
In addition, some documents confirm that MWD and Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) board director Brett Barbre worked behind the scenes to pursue the passage of the Calvert rider despite MWD General Manager Jeff Kightlinger’s best efforts to distance MWD from any political backlash associated with the Calvert Rider.
In an email dated May 15, 2018 between MWD’s Roger Patterson, Kern County Water Agency’s Brent Walthall, various D.C. lobbyists, and Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Nina Hawk and Richard Callender includes a review list of the House Appropriations Bill. Brent Walthall noted the House Appropriations Bill included limited additional funding for WIFIA loans (public-private partnership loans for CA WaterFix), and language for a blanket exemption from lawsuits on the EIR/S on any decision by any agency under state or federal law for CA WaterFix. Moreover, Walthall noted that “two fixes” for the master contract and supplemental fees were missing from the bill. These email communications confirm MWD, KCWA, and SCVWD staff collectively reviewed how the House Appropriations Bill and the Calvert rider could meet their needs for CA WaterFix. (MWDPRA-RTD_000126).
An email exchange on May 16, 2018 between Roger Patterson, Kathy Cole of MWD, and Jennifer Pierre and Stefanie Morris of the State Water Contractors showed that Ms. Cole, Ms. Pierre, and Ms. Morris were worried that they knew nothing about the rider until news reports. Ms. Cole asked what the “collective we” should say about the rider, with Patterson answering “nothing” (MWDPRA-RTD_000048). Yet, a separate email dated May 15, 2018 shows MWD and MWDOC board director, Brett Barbre, sending off a quick email to Ian Foley, Congressional Aid to Representative Ken Calvert, praising him for a “good job on this bill” with a link to an article covering the rider (MWDPRA-RTD_000039). Mr. Foley’s response was, “I try.”
In May 2018, MWD released a statement claiming that they were not behind the effort to create the Calvert Rider, even though MWD believed in judicial reform regarding permitting processes.
Emails indicate that MWD Board Members had questions about the Calvert Rider for MWD senior management (MWDPRA-RTD_000001; MWDPRA-RTD_000048) when news of the rider became public. Assistant General Manager Roger Patterson told MWD Director Russell Lefevre that “language was not requested by either Metropolitan or the State Water Contractors” (MWDPRA-RTD_000003), while General Manager Kightlinger wrote to Los Angeles Director Mark Gold:
“Metropolitan did not engage with Congressman Calvert on this proposal and there was no input from us to his office on it. He has been a good friend of Metropolitan’s over the years and has partnered with Senator Feinstein on many water-related issues that we have supported such as CalFed Act and its renewals among others. He is very interested in water in general and has very knowledgeable staff; it is not surprising to me that his staff could and would prepare such a proposal if he were interested.” (MWDPRA-RTD_000048).
Restore the Delta’s Executive Director Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla provided the following statement regarding the email findings:
“Very simply, General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger and Deputy General Manager Roger Patterson have had MWD & MWDOC Board Member Brett Barbre work directly with Representative Ken Calvert’s office on pursing the elimination of judicial review of California WaterFix, while keeping certain staff members, some MWD Board Members, and State Water Contractors in the dark. They feigned distance from the language knowing that political blowback from members within their own organization, partner organizations, and the public would result from this assault on the rule of law.
“Furthermore, it is clear that the Calvert Rider and the pursuit of WIFIA loans, which would be guaranteed by Federal tax payers and are used to create public-private partnerships, constitute the permitting and funding strategy by the members of the WaterFix JPA because the project is too expensive for their ratepayers and cannot withstand judicial scrutiny of its purported environmental merits.
“While we really didn’t expect less from MWD, KCWA, and SCVWD staff members, as they have not been honest with ratepayers, elected officials, and Californians about the environmental and economic risks of WaterFix, we remain deeply disturbed that Governor Brown allows this assault on the rule of law to continue. Governor Brown is known as a social justice champion. He makes speeches about protecting the rule of law and people’s rights. He is holding a climate change conference in September to cement his legacy as an environmentalist. Yet, he allows California WaterFix to drag on, without demanding environmental and economic veracity, and allowing sacrifice of due process rights for Delta communities, judicial review, and the rule of law. He is poised to sacrifice his moral principles just so he can build his tunnels. But by allowing lies to be the foundation upon which his Delta tunnels are built, they won’t only be dry, they will forever symbolize for future generations the hollow ring of his environmental legacy.”
major piece of legislation funding the development and improvement of water-related infrastructure passed Congress last week for the first time in nearly a decade, and President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.
Yet public interest groups warn that a key provision in the law would complicate public investment in drinking water and wastewater systems in big cities and small towns alike. The end result, they say, would be to strengthen privately-managed or -owned water systems while leaving the federal government to take on the risk of these investments—essentially subsidizing water privatization.
“This law will facilitate the privatization of water systems and prioritize funding for privatized systems,” Mary Grant, a researcher for the water program at Food & Water Watch, a watchdog group here, told MintPress News.
“The basic problem is that it will only fund up to 45 percent of project costs, but also stipulates that the rest cannot be made up through the use of tax-exempt bonds,” Grant continued. “Yet such bonds are the primary way in which local governments fund infrastructure projects, so why would they try to make use of this funding?”
The broader law, agreed upon by large majorities in both the House and Senate over the past week following a year of negotiation, is known as the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The full bill authorizes funding for a spectrum of new water infrastructure projects—particularly around ports and waterways, including flood protection and restoration—worth some $12.3 billion, though this money will still have to go through an appropriations process.
Assuming that President Obama signs it, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act will be the first such water-related funding package to become law since 2007. Even then, the 2007 bill passed over the threat of veto from President George W. Bush, primarily due to budgetary concerns. As with any large funding bill, the act has received criticism from conservatives worried that Congress will not be able to provide adequate oversight for what they expect to be a frenzy of project requests.
The bill also includes provisions aimed at dealing with what experts say is a multi-billion-dollar funding gap for drinking water and wastewater systems across the country. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that some $384 billion in improvements would be needed in U.S. drinking water infrastructure over the next two decades. The EPA also found that many of the country’s 73,400 water systems are between 50 to 100 years old.
“[T]he nation’s water systems have entered a rehabilitation and replacement era in which much of the existing infrastructure has reached or is approaching the end of its useful life,” EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said at the time. “This is a major issue that must be addressed so that American families continue to have the access they need to clean and healthy water sources.”
While Congress is receiving widespread plaudits for finally acting on this shortfall, critics are worried that the final law will be detrimental to communities across the country.
Dwindling Public Funding
According to data provided by Food & Water Watch, federal spending on improvements to drinking water and wastewater systems since the late 1970s have dwindled by some 80 percent. Since the late 1990s, the group says, federal grants have offered just $15 billion for this purpose.
In 2012, dozens of federal lawmakers wrote to the congressional leadership to highlight this situation, citing rising concerns among mayors, public water systems directors and others. The lawmakers noted that federal funding for water systems made up just three percent of total costs, down from 78 percent 35 years earlier. This shortfall, they warned, leaves “cities and towns across the country bearing the difficult challenge of pulling together funds for public water systems.”
The new Water Resources Reform and Development Act does attempt to ameliorate this problem, making available $175 million in funding over five years. But the part of the law that focuses on this issue, known as the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, does so primarily by steering communities toward public-private partnerships.
It is unclear whether this is by design. As Food & Water Watch’s Grant notes, a central issue is the fact that the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act does not allow communities to raise funding for infrastructure through the issuance of tax-exempt bonds, a process that the watchdog group says has raised more than $1.6 trillion for local and state infrastructure projects over the past decade.
It appears, however, that this option was only removed after negotiations with an eye toward the federal deficit, following a budgetary “scoring” by the Congressional Budget Office. Groups representing the municipal water sector say the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act won’t work for their members.
“We have huge wastewater infrastructure needs, so we’ve been supportive of having more tools in the toolbox to help communities pay for upgrades and new projects,” Hannah Mellman, legislative manager at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, a lobby group that represents the municipal wastewater sector, told MintPress.
“Yet the tax-exempt bond exemption will make [the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act] pretty unworkable for our members. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t use [the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act], but if they can’t finance their side of projects with tax-exempt bonds we don’t see how it will be usable. So we’re disappointed to see that in the final bill.”
Funding criteria under the bill will also be different than under traditional federal water assistance. For instance, the latter has always been in part based on issues related to public health, but the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act requires no such consideration. Instead, criteria for funding under the act will include issues that strike some observers as odd — for instance, how much of the money would go to areas with significant energy development, or whether the projects already have private financing partners.
Access and Equity
On the one hand, then, the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act likely will not offer communities large or small the funding required to address the water infrastructure needs that the federal government admits are necessary and widespread. On the other hand, watchdog groups say the bill’s impact could be more far-ranging still, touching on issues of access and equity.
“We are alarmed by the implications of this bill, which would open the doors to an increase in water public-private partnerships in the U.S. and effectively subsidize water privatization,” Erin Diaz, the director of Public Water Works!, a campaign at Corporate Accountability International, told MintPress in a statement.
“The privatization of water systems around the globe has often resulted in devastating results for the economy and people—rate hikes, layoffs, labor abuses, environmental damage and public safety risks—all while failing to invest in essential infrastructure.”
In 2012, Diaz’s office published an exhaustive report on the international experience of water privatization over the past two decades. With a focus on the World Bank’s role in this issue and a call for the multilateral lender to divest from private water companies worldwide (it has yet to do so), the report undermines the central rationale in favor of privatization: that corporate efficiency leads to lower operating costs.
Such findings have come up repeatedly in the U.S., as well, with surveys finding that investor-owned utilities in dozens of U.S. states charge around one-third more than those owned by the public.
Profit-driven systems also experience problems in deciding where to extend service. Driven by profit rather than public access, companies have at times proved reluctant, for instance, to provide services in low-income areas or very small communities.
Indeed, Grant says this was one of the original reasons that U.S. water infrastructure—much of which was originally privately owned—was taken over by the public sector during the early twentieth century. As this trend has reversed in some places over recent decades, similar concerns have again cropped up.
“Though water privatization remains fairly rare, there has been a lot of work on the part of private utilities trying to expand their operations,” Grant said.
“In West Virginia, for instance, a private water utility has been buying up other utilities, and the result has been smaller households have struggled in attempts to force the company to serve their areas. The company was also trying to cut back on its investments after the state government wouldn’t allow the rate increases it wanted to impose.”
Meanwhile, even as lawmakers are undercutting municipalities’ ability to raise money for water infrastructure from tax-exempt bonds, lobby attempts have made some headway in pushing Congress to remove legal caps on the levels to which bonds to fund private activity would be allowed in the water sector. In mid-May, senators formally proposed removing limits on what are known as private activity bonds for water-related projects, prompting applause from the National Association of Water Companies, a group that lobbies on behalf of water companies.
Lifting these caps would “open the floodgates to financing water privatization projects, effectively subsidized by taxpayers,” Corporate Accountability International’s Diaz told MintPress.
“This interference, present at every level of government, is just one small part of the private water industry’s strategy to expand its market across the U.S.,” said Diaz. “The provisions in [the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act] that could provide public financing to private water are just one example of the many policy avenues the private water industry pursues to privatize water and weaken its greatest competitor—publicly-controlled and democratically-governed water systems.”
Global warming is affecting where and how Americans live and work, and evidence is mounting that burning fossil fuels has made extreme weather such as heat waves and heavy precipitation much more likely in the USA, according to a massive federal report released Tuesday at the White House.
“Climate change is here and now, and not in some distant time or place,” said Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, one of the authors of the 1,100-page National Climate Assessment (NCA), the largest, most comprehensive U.S.-focused climate change report ever produced.
“The choices we’re making today will have a significant impact on our future,” Hayhoe said.
The assessment was prepared by hundreds of the USA’s top scientists. It agreed with a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the planet is warming, mostly because of human activity.
The assessment provides “the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date” for immediate and aggressive climate action, said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.
“All Americans will find things that matter to them in this report,” added Jerry Melillo, chair of the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee.
“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience,” the U.S. report stated. “So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York and native peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”
MORE: Stories on weathering the change
SPECIAL REPORT: Why you should sweat climate change
While scientists continue to refine projections of the future climate, observations unequivocally show that the climate is changing and that the warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These emissions come mainly from the burning of coal, oil and gas, the report states.
“If people took the time to read the report, they would see that it is not necessarily about polar bears, whales or butterflies,” said meteorologist Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia. “I care about all of those, but the NCA is about our kids, dinner table issues, and our well being.”
The colors on the map show temperature changes over the past 22 years (1991-2012) compared with the 1901-1960 average for the contiguous U.S.(Photo: NOAA)
“We’re already seeing extreme weather and it’s happening now,” said study co-author Donald Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois. “We’re seeing more heat waves, particularly in the West and in the South.”
Specifically, the three most significant threats from climate change in the USA are sea level rise along the coasts, droughts and fires in the Southwest and extreme precipitation events across the country.
The assessment was written by 300 scientists and other experts from academia; local, state and federal governments; the private sector; private citizens; and the non-profit sector. Representatives from oil companies such as ConocoPhillips and Chevron and environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy endorsed the assessment’s findings.
“The National Climate Assessment brings to light new and stronger evidence of how climate change is already having widespread impacts across the United States,” according to Kevin Kennedy of the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.- based environmental group.
“Chevron recognizes and shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change,” said Chevron spokesperson Justin Higgs. “Chevron’s Arthur Lee was one of 60 committee members and 240 authors to assist in the compilation of this report. We recognize the importance of this issue and are committed to continued research and understanding.”
A vast majority of climate scientists — generally pegged at 97% — concur with the basics of the science behind climate change, though some still find flaws in the details. A report last week, for instance, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change found that the impacts of extreme heat are often exaggerated.
The assessment is a federally mandated report prepared by the nation’s top scientists every four years for the president and Congress to review. This is the third report produced.
ORIGINAL SOURCE: National Climate Assessment
The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinated the development of the NCA, which is exclusively focused on climate impacts to the United States, according to the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990.
Contributing: Associated Press
Ten indicators of a warming world: These are just some of the indicators measured globally over many decades that show that the Earth’s climate is warming. White arrows indicate increasing trends; black arrows indicate decreasing trends.(Photo: NOAA)
Back in 2011, we were made aware of this article which links the World Bank with several transnational corporate entities, including Nestle, to private water worldwide, but especially targeting countries with a lower socioeconomic status. I was then informed by an expert source that it was not being spearheaded by the World Bank, but rather the World Economic Forum.
Then the other day, Nickie Seckera of Community Water Justice, who has been resisting Nestle’s expanding empire over the water in Fryeburg, sent along this information:
The Alliance for Water Stewardship offers a partnership with founding members as Nestlé, Unilever, Veolia and many more to help secure the multinational corporate agenda of controlling groundwater resources.
Beware of organizations as this who claim to protect global water resources. For whom are they protecting it? Corporate-backed organizations as this are out for protection of their future profits in securing water sources all over the world for their dominance over local people. The prospects of commodification and control could change how we access drinking water for all future generations. As we know, they are not out for the common good but for profit – and the highest bidder will win access to life.
“The Alliance for Water Stewardship is a partnership of global leaders in sustainable water management who are dedicated to promoting responsible use of freshwater that is socially, economically and environmentally beneficial. AWS drives collective responses to shared water challenges through its stakeholder-endorsed international Water Stewardship Standard. AWS’s Founding Partners are American Standard, CDP, Centre for Responsible Business, Centro del Agua para America Latina y el Caribe, Ecolab, European Water Partnership, Fundacion Chile, Fundacion FEMSA, Future500, General Mills, The Gold Standard Foundation, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, Inghams, Marks & Spencer, Murray Darling Basin Authority, Nestle, Pacific Institute, Sealed Air, United Nations Environment Programme, the UN Global Compact’s CEO Water Mandate, The Nature Conservancy, The Water Council, Veolia, Water Environment Foundation, Water Footprint Network, Water Stewardship Australia, Water Witness International, WaterAid and WWF.”
In a candid interview for the documentary We Feed the World, Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck makes the astonishing claim that water isn’t a human right. He attacks the idea that nature is good, and says it is a great achievement that humans are now able to resist nature’s dominance. He attacks organic agriculture and says genetic modification is better.
Nestlé is the world’s biggest bottler of water. Brabeck claims – correctly – that water is the most important raw material in the world. However he then goes on to say that privatisation is the best way to ensure fair distribution. He claims that the idea that water is a human right comes from “extremist” NGOs. Water is a foodstuff like any other, and should have a market value.
He believes that the ultimate social responsibility of any Chairman is to make as much profit as possible, so that people will have jobs.
And just to underline what a lovely man he is, he also thinks we should all be working longer and harder.
Consequences of water privatisation
The consequences of water privatisation have been devastating on poor communities around the world. In South Africa, where the municipal workers’ union SAMWU fought a long battle against privatisation, there has been substantial research (pdf) about the effects. Water privatisation lead to a massive cholera outbreak in Durban in the year 2000.
The Nestlé boycott
Nestlé already has a very bad reputation among activists. There has been a boycott call since 1977. This is due to Nestlé’s aggressive lobbying to get women to stop breastfeeding – which is free and healthy – and use infant formula (sold by Nestlé) instead. Nestlé has lobbied governments to tell their health departments to promote formula. In poor countries, this has resulted in the deaths of babies, as women have mixed formula with contaminated water instead of breastfeeding.
Tell Nestlé they are wrong – water is a human right
There is Europe-wide campaign to tell the European Commission that water is a human right, and to ask them to enact legislation to ensure this is protected.