More Bad News on Gas and Water for California

Back in January, with gasoline prices already on the rise, California governor Gavin Newsom outlined a plan to delay the automatic 5.6 percent hike in the gasoline excise tax due on July 1. “It’s a $523 million dollar gas tax holiday of sorts,” the governor explained, but now embattled Californians won’t be celebrating.

In January, state Republicans immediately introduced a plan to suspend the gas tax. Still, the proposal failed to secure enough votes in March. A delay in the gas-tax hike would now require passage of a bill by the end of April, and none has been introduced. According to the governor’s office, the legislature will not act in time to provide relief and the governor will work with legislators on a “proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices.”

As Californians wait to see how that might work, the state’s water supply may also be taking a hit. A new California Coastal Commission staff report rejects approval of the Poseidon Water desalination plant in Huntington Beach. The California Globe reports, “potentially depriving
Southern California of a major future source of freshwater.”

According to the Globe report, Poseidon Energy has spent some $100 million to get the Huntington Beach desalination plant in place. The highly scrutinized project would provide 50 million gallons to arid southern California and help end the state’s water crisis.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) is an unelected body that overrides dozens of elected city and county governments on land-use and environmental issues. The CCC has a history of running roughshod over property rights. Commissioner Mark Nathanson served prison time for extorting bribes from Hollywood celebrities and others seeking coastal building permits.

According to Poseidon Energy, if the CCC staff rejection stands, “it will effectively be the death knell for desalination in California.” The Pacific Ocean, the largest body of water in the world, will remain an untapped resource for a thirsty Golden State.

The Coastal Commission rarely votes against the recommendation of its staff, and the decision on the Poseidon desalination plant is due on May 12. As they await the outcome, Californians have more evidence that the state’s ruling class is indifferent to their most basic needs.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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