ELC Students Fight Ill-Conceived Desalination Plant

Environmental Law Clinic students hit the road this month in the clinic’s continued fight against a so-called “emergency” desalination plant in Cambria, California. The plant was hastily built in 2014, without either the environmental review required by state law or the deliberative planning needed to develop sound water supply projects. In addition, the plant does not have a permanent coastal development permit, as required by local law and the Coastal Act. Not surprisingly, the lack of planning and environmental review has led to a number of avoidable water quality and other environmental violations resulting from the plant’s operations, raising serious concerns about impacts on endangered species and public resources.

Hoping to spur the Coastal Commission to use its enforcement authority to bring the facility into compliance with the mandates of the Coastal Act, Julian Aris (JD ’17) presented at the Coastal Commission meeting in Half Moon Bay on November 5. See Julian in action here (starting at minute 5:50).

A few days later, the clinic’s full-time students visited the desalination plant site in Cambria in preparation for a hearing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on November 10. At the hearing, Cathrina Altimari-Brown (JD ’17) argued a procedural motion to compel completion of the record for our environmental review claim, while Julian impressed upon the court the importance of moving forward with discovery on our Coastal Act claims.

Cathrina Altimari-Brown (JD ’17) and Julian Aris (JD ’17) getting ready for the hearing in San Luis Obispo Superior Court
Cathrina Altimari-Brown (JD ’17) and Julian Aris (JD ’17) relax outside the Courthouse after the hearing