News Feature | May 15, 2014

Lawsuit Says San Diego Utility Ignored Climate Change

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

sandiegoreg

The San Diego Water Authority has turned a blind eye to the dangers of climate change, according to a lawsuit filed by environmental advocates last month. 

San Diego Coastkeeper, an environmental non-profit, filed suit in San Diego Superior Court, arguing that the authority has violated the California Environmental Quality Act.  This law "requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible," according to state regulators

Coastkeeper's Matt O'Malley said the authority's policies are not energy-efficient.

"We care about our water supply's energy use because it produces greenhouse gas emissions, a primary driver of global climate change," he said in a release. "Water supply decisions based on this plan could jeopardize the health and economic viability of San Diego County by contributing to climate change impacts like sea level rise."

The water provider disputed the claim. "The authority’s documents not only meet the letter of the law, they are good for the environment and good for the region," said water official Ken Weinberg in U-T San Diego

He cited the Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update, the authority's policy blueprint through 2035. The master plan lays out "how the region could adapt to a hotter and drier climate," according to U-T San Diego

The plan "projects a 15 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions from 2009 to 2020," U-T San Diego reported. "On March 27, the water authority approved this plan and its accompanying Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report and Climate Action Plan," the Times of San Diego reported

Coastkeeper says the plan does not consider how much energy it takes to treat and transport water, according to a lawyer for the nonprofit.

"What we're challenging is the inadequacy of those plans also more importantly, the inadequacy of the environmental review that they did associated with those plans," Everett DeLano, an attorney representing San Diego Coastkeeper, said to KBPS.  

Officials included Coastkeeper in the process when they crafted the blueprint. "Coastkeeper said it had been part of the planning process since early 2013 and repeatedly called on the water authority to 'prioritize and incentivize' conservation and recycling and carry out an appropriate greenhouse gas reduction plan," the Times reported.

For more policy news, check out Water Online's Regulations and Legislation Solution Center

Image credit: "P1000212," MattGrommes © 2010, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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