Posted on | July 14, 2012 | No Comments
Defending his department after the release of “Chinatown,” a Los Angeles Department of Water & Power executive is said to have protested, “There was never any incest!” That was 1974. As yesterday the final environmental impact report for the Cadiz, Inc groundwater mining project proposed for the Mojave Desert was issued, this much is known: Incest is a given.
Except this time there’s no part for Faye Dunaway. The incest is political. Much has been written about Cadiz generosity to politicians. Public servants who have been on the Cadiz payroll and/or recipients of notable donations include Los Angeles Mayor Antoino Villaraigosa, former California Governor Gray Davis, Susan Kennedy — chief of staff of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California state assemblyman Richard Katz and San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt. For background on Cadiz and its political largesse, this compendium is a start. Latterly, much cash has been flowing to the Mojave, to San Bernardino County, where the Cadiz project is located.
Cadiz’s propensity to grease palms is suddenly sharply relevant. As the final environmental impact report is issued, one might be tempted take it as exhaustive — as the point instead of a thick distraction — unless alerted to the Cadiz efforts taken to produce its hundreds of pages without input from the scientists best equipped to judge its claims about safe water yields. Cadiz justifies shutting out hydrologists from the US Geological Survey from the review process by arguing that because its proposed pipeline would run along railway land, and the railway has already been granted federal right-of-way, no further federal involvement is needed.
That would make sense if pipelines, like trains, didn’t dewater the land that they cross.
Something called the “M Opinion” currently being developed by federal solicitors will ultimately decide whether or not one sort of right-of-way may legally be treated as interchangeable with another. In deciding that question, and weighing its ramifications, it’s likely that the White House Council on Environmental Quality will be consulted.
Which brings us back to incest. The White House environment office is run by Nancy Sutley, former advisor to Gov. Gray Davis and deputy to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. During much of her time in the Davis government, Cadiz CEO Keith Brackpool, donor of more than $100,000 to the governor’s campaign, was part what the LA Times characterized as a kitchen cabinet — even, some joked, California’s unofficial water master. Read the superb vintage Times piece to be reminded of how Gov Davis and Mr Brackpool, an almost comic book-issue Englishman, met with Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak while Cadiz had business before the Egyptian leader.
When Sutley worked for the Los Angeles mayor, rightly or wrongly, she gained the reputation as the de facto face of Cadiz in meetings at the regional water authority. This is not to say that she’s corrupt, or even that this characterization was fair. Her reputation on conservation is solid if subject to hagiography in her Wikipedia entry. Unlike the mayor, Sutley does not appear to have been an employee of Cadiz. She has not holidayed with Cadiz CEO Keith Brackpool. Mr Brackpool has not hosted her birthday party or traveled to the Orient with her. But Mr Brackpool has done all of those things with Mr Villaraigosa.
To avoid so much as the appearance of impropriety, as the all-important decision looms whether or not to bring the USGS in to review Cadiz claims, Ms Sutley should err on the side of caution and recuse herself from any part of decision-making to do with Cadiz or the “M Opinion.” The highest office in the land should be above punchlines about incest.