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Part 3 of a series

By John Earl
OC Voice

Poseidon Resources Inc.’s website claims that the desalination plant it wants to build in southeast Huntington Beach, at Newland and Beach avenues, will be a “cost-effective solution to provide residents with a safe and reliable water supply by using existing structures—at no cost to taxpayers.”

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

Elected officials who voted to approve the desalination plant three years ago have consistently echoed Poseidon’s claim: Poseidon would privately own and operate the plant for its own profit and for its investors—a strictly free market affair with no taxpayer investment or risk, they said.

City council representative Don Hansen praised the project’s supposed free market values to a crowded city council chamber before he gave Poseidon his vote along with three other council members, Keith Bohr, Gil Coerper and Cathy Green.

“My belief is that the market is going to drive the majority of these decisions. I truly believe that,” Hansen said.

If the Poseidon desalination plant is not profitable, he added, it “will never see the light of day. And it’s purely born on private investment dollars, the risk that they [Poseidon] are going to take.”

In a candidates’ debate last year, Hansen warned that “We’re going to need the water” and reassured again that “It’s not us building the plant. It’s all private investment.”

If all goes well for Poseidon, its Huntington Beach plant will produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day by sometime in 2011. It still needs to obtain additional government permits and must work out a franchise agreement with the city first.

Poseidon plans to build an almost identical desalination plant in the city of Carlsbad. That project is further along in the permit process and if financing comes through it could start construction this summer. Poseidon’s CEOs dream of building large desalination plants at other California coastal locations as well.

Hansen’s appeal to the free market instincts of the voters is persuasive in a city where the call for smaller government is almost a religious doctrine. But attributing either Poseidon project to to free-market karma is misleading because the company could benefit from as much as $1 billion in taxpayer supplied subsidies that would make it easier for Poseidon to attract the private sector financing that it also needs but still lacks in order to build and operate the two plants. Continue Reading »

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By Joe Shaw
OC Voice Columnist

(This column was written in February, 2009)

sign_spinner_2 California lost 600,000 jobs in January. The jobless rate in California is now 9.3 percent. Huntington Beach’s Quiksilver recently announced 150 layoffs in their workforce. Boeing laid off 64 local workers. Home Depot’s Expo Design Center and Circuit City is closing, leaving more workers without a job.

And Huntington Beach home sales remain down and foreclosures continue to edge up.

Perfect time for the HB City Council to create some jobs and help our small businesses, right? Wrong. A move by planning commissioners to remove a ban on human signs was rejected by the city council 5-2.

Why wouldn’t the council vote to lift one of the many rules and regulations that frustrate small business and cost them money? Why wouldn’t our city council support free trade, small business and creating jobs?

Councilman Don Hansen told the Los Angeles Times the signs were a “form of visual blight.”

Sounds like hypocrisy from the councilman who just named a realtor as his new planning commissioner. Ever driven around Huntington Beach on the weekends and seen all the real estate signs on every corner? Continue Reading »

By John Earl
OC Voice

Courtesy Susan Worthy

ORIGINAL OWNERS: Charles Letterman and wife, Allie, with their two children, Gladys and Claude, standing in front of their downtown Huntington Beach home about 1901. Photo: Courtesy Susan Worthy

SUSAN WORTHY and her husband, Guy Guzardo, had been trying for decades to save and restore their small two-story, eastern-style, cottage and its accompanying large commercial building, both located at the corner of 6th and Walnut streets in downtown Huntington Beach. After years of fighting redevelopment politics and searching for funding, they began a full restoration of the two buildings about a year ago.

H.B. residents might appreciate their perseverance because the structures are extraordinary and vital to understanding the city’s history. The 1200 square foot house and the 5,000 square foot commercial building date prior to 1904, the year that electricity first came to the city and it officially took the name Huntington Beach.

Both buildings are in the National Register of Historical Places because they retain their original materials and structure (the Newland home is the city’s only other un-remodeled historical structure) and due to their direct connection to two of the city’s founding settlers-Matthew and Mollie Helme, Susan’s great grandparents.

“There’s nothing that looks like it in all of southern California,” Worthy says. Although small, the home started out with four bedrooms and an outside bathroom. In 1907 walls were knocked down to create two bedrooms. Today, one of those rooms is the bathroom, leaving only one bedroom. Continue Reading »

Sarah S. Mosko
OC Voice

For the nine in ten Americans who know next to nothing about nanotechnology (NT), there is little time to waste in getting up to speed because, ready or not, the NT revolution is well underway with new nano-engineered consumer products entering the market weekly.

Multi-walled carbon nanotubes exhibit unique properties. Photo courtesy of PEN.

Multi-walled carbon nanotubes exhibit unique properties. Photo courtesy of PEN.

Another reason, as voiced by consumer protection, health, and environmental organizations, is that NT products are being sold without adequate safety testing and government oversight.

The actual number of NT products in commerce is unknown because there is no labeling or reporting requirement, but over 800 have been tabulated by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN), an online inventory of manufacturer-identified NT goods funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In 2007, at least $147 billion in global manufactured goods incorporated NT, encompassing such varied products as cosmetics, clothing, food, food packaging, and dietary supplements.  PEN estimates that figure will reach $2.6 trillion by 2014. Continue Reading »

By Sarah Mosko
OC Voice

It’s not much of a stretch to liken America’s relationship with cells phones to a once sizzling romance that ends in good bye.

Given all the environmental costs of cell phones, certainly the most eco-friendly cell is the one you already own.

Given all the environmental costs of cell phones, certainly the most eco-friendly cell is the one you already own.

Fated love affairs typically begin with blind infatuation and fiery passion before reality sets in, cooling the embers enough to allow more guarded, sometimes less attractive aspects of the self to surface. Interest wanes until the love object is abandoned or replaced by an alluring new one.

Americans relate to cell phones in much the same way. An old phone, with once novel features that drew fascination, is discarded with hardly a thought when an updated model makes it seem obsolete.

That consumers replace cell phones about every two years–with Californians purchasing in a single year nearly one new cell for every two state residents–makes this analogy seem less silly.

A parallel can be drawn too between the innards of a cell phone and what is revealed when one person lets another peek inside:  it’s not all pretty. Some nasty materials lurk behind the bright shiny casing, making cell phone disposal a knotty environmental issue, analogous to ending, with minimal damages, a relationship gone sour. Continue Reading »

By Sara Mosko
OC Voice

surfers

Surfing might seem like an earth-friendly sport, but a closer look reveals that the environmental impact may be more than you realize. Photo c1967 at Old Man’s Beach, San Clemente, California.

At first glance, surfing might seem like an inherently earth-friendly sport. Surfers paddle out and catch waves by sheer force of will and muscle. No need for fossil fuel-burning speed boats to get around. And, surfers have a reputation for caring about ocean pollution.

But a closer look reveals that, like most human activities, the environmental impact is far from nil and, consequently, there’s a nascent movement within the surfing industry to clean up it its act.

The Essentials
The bare necessities of surfing are surfboard, wetsuit, good waves and wheels to and fro. The waves are courtesy of Mother Nature, but the choices surfers make to otherwise outfit themselves determine the toll on the environment.

Lightweight polyurethane (PU) boards swathed in fiberglass cloth and polyester resin have been the industry mainstay since heavy wood boards were ditched in the 1950s. Because both PU and polyester are petrochemicals, the enviro impact starts with environmental degradation during petroleum extraction.

Then there’s the emission of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) during PU synthesis from two petrochemicals-a  ‘polyol’ plus a highly volatile and toxic compound called TID. The foam molding stage eats up plenty of energy and more air polluting VOCs are given off when the board is glassed. Continue Reading »

Part 2 of a series.

By John Earl
OC Voice

Huntington Beach City Councilmember Don Hansen reassured the public. “I’m actually pretty comfortable having a private company potentially evaluate the dedication of a source for our future water supply,” he said.

The Tampa Bay, Florida desalination plant: A series of failures and costly delays. Photo: www.treehuggers.org

The Tampa Bay, Florida desalination plant: A series of failures and costly delays. Photo: http://www.treehuggers.org

That was three years ago at a city council meeting when Hansen and three other council members, Cathy Green, Gil Coerper and Keith Bohr (now Mayor Bohr) voted to allow Poseidon Resources Inc. to build a desalination plant at the corner of Newland and Beach avenues in southeast Huntington Beach.

If all goes according to plan, the facility would convert 127 million gallons of seawater into 50 million gallons of fresh drinking water every day of the year.  The city would have the option of buying up to 3.5 million gallons of that water at a discount compared to the cost of imported water (two-thirds of the city’s water comes from ground wells, its cheapest source of water). The rest would be distributed throughout the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), in theory, to provide a guaranteed water source to help offset drought conditions in the state.

The plant still needs approval from the State Lands Commission and the California Coastal Commission and Poseidon still lacks the private and public financing needed to build and operate, although Poseidon officials say that all are forthcoming (see Part 1).

No matter if the Huntington Beach desalination plant fails, Bohr said, because the burden will be strictly Poseidon’s. “We’re not hiring Poseidon, so there’s no risk,” he told hundreds of people packed tightly into the city council chambers. “If it fails, it doesn’t cost us anything.”

But Poseidon’s facility in Tampa Bay, Florida, it’s first (and failed) attempt to build and operate a desalination plant,  is used by opponents to argue against building the Huntington Beach desalination plant.

The Tampa Bay desalination plant, about half the size of the one planned for Huntington Beach, has operated improperly  if at all since it opened in 2003. Continue Reading »