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Bechtel Funds PPIC Report on 'California Water Myths'
by Dan Bacher
Friday Dec 4th, 2009 7:42 AM
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) will conduct a free seminar on Tuesday, coinciding with the release of its new report, “California Water Myths,” at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, Gardenia Room, 1230 J Street in Sacramento.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraged "water conservation and action to rebuild California's outdated water system" - in other words, to build the peripheral canal and Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs - at the Association of California Water Agencies' 2009 Fall Conference and Exhibition. The following photo was taken in the Golden Pacific Ballroom at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center in San Diego, California Thursday, December 3.

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Bechtel Funds PPIC Report on 'California Water Myths'

by Dan Bacher

Public policy studies and reports, particularly in regard to water and other environmental issues, have become completely tainted by corporate conflicts of interest in California in recent years.

The latest example of this corruption of the democratic process is a free seminar that the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) will conduct on Tuesday, December 8, coinciding with the release of its new report, “California Water Myths,” at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, Gardenia Room, 1230 J Street in Sacramento.

“Water has been a hot topic this fall, with all eyes focused on a legislative package to address California’s water woes,” the news release states. “The solutions coming out of Sacramento represent progress, but they are only first steps on a long path toward sustainable water management.This half-day event, coinciding with the release of a new PPIC report, California Water Myths, brings together the authors and other noted water experts to assess how we can rebuild public policy discussions about water on myth-free foundations, to continue with needed reforms.”

However, fishermen, family farmers, conservationists and environmental justice advocates expect that this report will be just another corporate-funded effort to provide “scientific” justification for the construction of a peripheral canal to increase water exports to corporate agribusiness and southern California, especially when one considers who funded the report.

The "research" for the report is funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, as well as by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund and the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority. Bechtel and the Packard Foundation also funded a previous report published by PPIC last July that recommended a peripheral canal – “dual conveyance” - as a “solution” to the California’s Delta’s ecological collapse.

Last year's PPIC report has been cynically used by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, corporate agribusiness and southern California interests to ram a water policy/water bond package through a special session of the Legislature.

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. is the son of Stephen David Bechtel, Sr. and grandson of Warren A. Bechtel who founded the Bechtel Corporation. His San Francisco-based foundation, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, has as its overall mission, "to support well-managed non-profit organizations that provide quality programs and create significant sustained benefits in areas of special interest to the Founders and Directors."

The "environmental" funding behind the latest report and the previous one appear to be a clear case of green washing, when you consider the dark history of the Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel, the world's largest engineering and construction firm, is a leading advocate throughout the world of the privatization of water systems. It was Bechtel that sued the country of Bolivia for canceling a contract there sponsored by the World Bank.

A CorpWatch report, "Profiting from Destruction," provides case studies from Bechtel's history of operating in the water, nuclear, energy and public works sectors. These case studies reveal a legacy of unsustainable and destructive practices that have reaped permanent human, environmental and community devastation around the globe. Letters from "Bechtel affected communities" included in the report provide first-hand descriptions of these impacts, from Bolivia to Native American lands in Nevada (http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=6975).

The Bechtel Corporation is also infamous for being one of the world’s worst war profiteers. “For the year 2004, Bechtel brought in more than $17.4 billion, a record haul for the company,” according to Jeffrey St. Clair in Counterpunch (http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair05092005.html) That makes two record years in a row. Last year Bechtel earned more than $17 billion for the first time. Both peaks were all the more impressive given the senescent condition of the economy.”

“Much of that robust income stream is coming from its operations in Iraq, where Bechtel is the king of contractors,” said St. Clair. “A few days after the war began, the US Agency for International Development handed Bechtel a $680 million contract for the reconstruction of Iraq infrastructure, a by-invitation-only deal awarded in a secret process. That number has been jacked up twice and now totals more than $1.8 billion and may eventually reach as much as $50 billion.”

The report is also funded by the Resource Legacy Fund Foundation, a shadowy group that funds Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fast-track Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) fiasco in California - and that many believes tries to control environmental discourse in California. In an egregious case of corruption of the democratic process, the MLPA blue ribbon task forces to develop so-called marine protected areas are stacked with an oil industry superstar, marina developer, real estate executive and other corporate interests.

Besides the suspect funding, the list of speakers for seminars is highly instructive of what this report is really about: virtually all are supporters of the peripheral canal and/or the water/policy package signed by Schwarzenegger in November. Representatives of water agencies and corporate environmental NGOs and pro-canal scientists will speak, but nobody from the Delta, fishing, environmental justice or California Indian communities is listed on the program.

How can you possibly "rebuild public policy discussions about water on myth-free foundations" when the people that will be most directly impacted by "water reforms" are completely left out of the discussion?

And how can the PPIC describe the legislative package to "address California’s water woes" as representing "progress" when they clear the path to building a peripheral canal and Temperance Flat and Sites Reservoirs? How can you possibly describe as "progress" a legislative package that resurrects the “coequal goals” of water supply and ecosystem restoration of the failed CalFed program, a process that has led to the collapse of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, striped bass, green sturgeon and other fish populations?

For more information, go to: http://www.ppic.org/main/event.asp?i=984


Here is the program for the event:
California Water: Moving Beyond Myth

Sacramento, CA

DATE: December 8, 2009
TIME: 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (Registration 8:30 a.m.)
LOCATION: Sheraton Grand Hotel, Gardenia Room

1230 J Street

Sacramento, CA

**Deadline for registration is at Noon on Friday, Dec 4
**Please note new venue

ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Water has been a hot topic this fall, with all eyes focused on a legislative package to address California’s water woes. The solutions coming out of Sacramento represent progress, but they are only first steps on a long path toward sustainable water management. This half-day event, coinciding with the release of a new PPIC report, California Water Myths, brings together the authors and other noted water experts to assess how we can rebuild public policy discussions about water on myth-free foundations, to continue with needed reforms.

8:30 am Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 am Welcome and Presentation: California Water Myths
Ellen Hanak, Public Policy Institute of California
9:45 am Panel 1—Coping with Scarcity: Tools for Managing
Water in a Constrained Future
Moderator: Jay Lund, University of California,
Davis
Ara Azhderian, San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water
Authority
Celeste Cantú, Santa Ana Watershed Project
Authority
Timothy Quinn, Association of California Water
Agencies
10:30 am Panel 2—Reconciling Ecosystems: Realistic
Approaches for Enhancing the Environment
Moderator: Jeffrey Mount, University of
California, Davis
Peter Moyle, University of California, Davis
Anthony Saracino, The Nature Conservancy
Anke Mueller-Solger, Interagency Ecological
Program
11:15 am Panel 3—Structuring Reform: Legal and Institutional
Options
Moderator: Brian Gray, University of California,
Hastings
Cynthia Koehler, Environmental Defense Fund
Justice Ronald Robie, Court of Appeal, Third
District
Barton "Buzz" Thompson, Stanford University
12:00 pm Lunch Provided and Breakout Sessions
1:00 pm Adjourn

This research is supported with funding by:
S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority