Trump’s Cadiz relies on complicit Democrats

Posted on | September 5, 2017 | 2 Comments

As US Senator Dianne Feinstein, California Governor Jerry Brown and his Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom lined up behind California State Assembly Bill 1000 last Friday, it looked as though the blue state synonymous with Trump resistance had finally driven a stake through the heart of a Mojave groundwater mining project only viable because of 45th administration sleaze.

And yet, it hadn’t.

Rather, the fifteenth project on Trump’s infrastructure list, an eye-poppingly absurd private scheme to pump billions of gallons of groundwater from the Mojave Desert for export to Orange County, appears to have been saved by two up and coming Democrats, State Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). 

Thanks to the committee chaired by Lara, the environmental protection bill went from near sure passage to somewhere between life support and dead in appropriations.

By contrast, by late Friday night, the Trump-backed Cadiz Water Project was soaring on the NASDAQ. 

The curious and curiouser case of Trump’s Cadiz overcoming what appeared a great blue wall of resistance began days before the committee hearing with some stunningly unfriendly fire from De Leon. Responding to a series of oddly bland remarks by Feinstein to the effect that the president was unlikely to be impeached and Democrats would have to learn some patience, De Leon shot back, “I don’t think children who breathe dirty air can afford patience! The LGBT worker or woman losing their rights by the day, or the black student who could be assaulted on the street, they can’t afford patience! ‘Dreamers’ who are unsure of their fate in this country can’t afford patience! Even a Trump voter who is still out of work can’t afford to be patient.”

Fiery stuff and hard not to agree with him given Trump’s relentless cruelty and recklessness.

Yet it was a committee of the De Leon-run chamber, not Feinstein, who by the end of the week had bolstered survival chances of one of Trump’s most questionable infrastructure projects. As it became clear that the Lara-led appropriations committee had suspended the bill from moving that week,  Lara’s excuse became excoriation-worthy in its own right. “California has the highest environmental review standards in the country and this particular project has gone through significant consideration,” said the Democrat from Bell Gardens, seemingly oblivious that, like Scott Pruitt had done before him for Devon Energy, he was handing the press almost verbatim company talking points.

It merits adding here that this most-worn Cadiz talking point is wrong. The original Cadiz project was voted down by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California precisely because independent federal hydrologists illustrated that, crudely put, the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze.

Only after reviving the project and arguing, incredibly, that US Geological Survey review wasn’t needed because Cadiz would run the pipeline on a railway easement, did Cadiz slip through state review. It was at this point that the Obama Interior Department stepped in, politely laughed, and insisted on federal review. Faced with independent scientific scrutiny of its notoriously suspect water estimates, the Cadiz scheme was all but bankrupt … until Trump’s victory.

Lo, almost immediately, Cadiz had pride of place on Trump’s infrastructure priority list. This was unrelated, we were told, to the fact that the team compiling the list came from a firm that lobbied for Cadiz, and where the CEO of Cadiz also worked. Corruption! Pish! Team Trump was cutting red tape.

The best construction that Cadiz-watchers can put on the De Leon/Lara alliance with Trump’s Cadiz is that there might be some jobs, briefly, involved in laying pipe. Yet break down the wildly inflated numbers offered by the company and it makes no sense. Those jobs would endanger the $32m a year and rising of tourism dollars that the unsullied preserve draws to the region. And those numbers didn’t factor in the winter of 2017 superbloom when everyone with an I-Phone seemed to go to the Mojave.

Maybe, just maybe the two Sacramento buccaneers came gunning for Feinstein because one or both of them want to run for her seat, in which case they might imagine that donations from Cadiz won’t hurt.

In that, they are wrong. They may be too young to remember how ruinously tainted former Governor Gray Davis was by Cadiz dollars and favors — including use of a jet. It’s painful to imagine how the career of the once thrilling young Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might have gone had he not been bogged down by greed and pockets-full of Cadiz cash.

Instead he became a Herbalife consultant.

Saddest of all is how San Bernardino County Supervisors barely even tried to cover the trail of Cadiz cash as they waived their once-fine groundwater ordinance.

It remains to be seen if De Leon and Lara will take AB 1000 off ice and allow it the passage that real Trump resistance requires. The future of the Trump resistance and not just the Mojave National Preserve relies on them doing just that.

One thing they should note well: Projects don’t come any Trumpier than water-from-the-desert-schemes. The company of Cadiz’s latest backer, Leon Black, is named in a recent quarterly report as source of finance to build the water pipe on the railway, no pesky federal hydrology needed.

Haven’t heard of the New York private equity billionaire who believes Trump will “turbocharge” the economy by doing away with “needless” regulations? In 2012 he reportedly bought Edvard Munch’s The Scream for $120m.

*For a full background on the desert water scheme, see the KCET summary Forget it Jake, it’s Cadiz

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Trump’s Cadiz relies on complicit Democrats”

  1. Leda Beth Gray
    September 6th, 2017 @ 5:39 am

    The effects of allowing the project to go through would have long term consequences that will stick with whoever allowed it– it would be their legacy. California is better than this! They must resist and not give in to the money. It is part of what the word “leader” is about.

  2. Cecile Sanzo
    September 6th, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

    So sick of seeing money as the source of political wrong! It is scientifically unfeasible as I am sure any valid study would prove. Why not desalinate the ocean?

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