Water rights and surrounding legal issues in California go back to the Gold Rush days and before.
A cadre of environmental and water right lawyers have had decades to study and specialize the meaning of State and Federal laws and the administrative departments that interpret public interest.
Most relevant to Desalination in Huntington Beach is the California Environmental Quality Act which guides the permit processes. Because Desalination technology impacts on the environment is not yet well understood, some permit seekers have used unorthodox and legally questionable means to achieve their corporate goals. There are significant differences of opinion, of course, surrounding the facts available.
One of the major aspects of HB Desalination permitting process is the location of the facility within the AES HB Generating Plant. The AES Plant, built in the 1950’s using 1950’s technology, uses Once Through Cooling (OTC) processes. The State policy on ocean protection decries the harmful impacts of OTC on marine life. Federal Clean Water Act section 316(b) defines OTC as illegal under specific circumstances. Ongoing lawsuits may resolve conflicting claims.
Poseidon Resources Inc. told elected officials and taxpayers that if its energy intensive and costly desalination projects were approved in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach, California that there would be no cost or risk to taxpayers. But they will directly benefit from a $350 million subsidy with much more likely to come.