With the Legislature returning to work and rushing to vote on hundreds of bills before the end of the legislative session next month, it’s critically important that our elected officials stay focused on their fundamental responsibility: To carefully consider the policy merits of each bill and its long-term implications on the Californians they serve – including our Filipino communities – and on the future of our state. And when considered in that light, it’s obvious that Assembly Bill 1000 is bad policy that deserves to be rejected.
AB 1000 was introduced by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) for a singular reason: to halt the Cadiz Water Project, which aims to bring a new, reliable water supply to 400,000 people by conserving clean groundwater that is now becoming 10 times saltier than the ocean and evaporating into the air. The legislation forces a form of “double jeopardy” review by politicians and political appointees for certain water infrastructure projects on top of California’s already first-in-class environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act.
To be clear, the Cadiz Water Project has undergone every environmental review required by the state, including several rounds producing an Environmental Impact Report, public hearings and Court review, which have together shown that the project is safe for the environment.
Equally importantly, the project provides a major boost to the local economy in the form of thousands of good-paying jobs, including for veterans and union members, and nearly $1 billion in economic activity. That’s good news, not only for the Filipino community, but for the region and the state at large. And the project will have oversight from the County of San Bernardino, which has the authority to continually monitor the project to ensure groundwater levels remain at expected levels.
In short, supporters of AB 1000 are putting a new, safe, reliable water supply at risk. As it is, Californians’ access to water is put at risk due to drought and other natural disasters. Water is the lifeblood of our communities, and we cannot afford to wait until a wildfire or an earthquake strikes to find out if the water supplies we have today can withstand them and fulfill current and future demands.
Moreover, throwing up additional barriers to this project sets a precedent that could significantly delay or even block future infrastructure projects in California, threatening not only the economic growth and jobs those projects could create, but also their contribution to the long-term sustainability of our state.
Environmental review should be an objective, scientific process – not a political one. Allowing the Legislature to arbitrarily add even more hoops for projects to jump through means such reviews could drag on even longer than they do now. Adding an additional layer of review conducted by politicians and political appointees on top of the existing environmental process also politicizes this process and makes it even more unpredictable and complicated.
As it is, the Cadiz Water Project has successfully passed all necessary environmental reviews and, for that reason alone, should be allowed to move forward. But even for those who don’t support the project, AB 1000 represents bad policy and a bad precedent that should be stopped. If legislators are serious about standing up for Filipino communities, for our jobs, for our water and for the sanctity of our state’s legacy of environmental protection, then they must reject AB 1000.