Orange County: Waste, Water and Energy

  • Posted on 8 January 2021
  • By Hoiyin Ip
A number of surfboards have appeared around Dana Point since quarantine in March

A number of mysterious surfboards were placed throughout Dana Point since the lockdown in March. Photo by Hoiyin Ip

One of my favorite quotes over the years is by Gloria Steinem:
"In each of these stages of campaigning, I've been inspired, angry, hopeless, hopeful, sleepless, surprised, betrayed, exhausted, educated, energized, despairing, and impatient - but never sorry." 
2020 was a year to experience this pack of emotions more intimately. I’d like to start the reflection with three of the campaigns in Orange County. 




Break free from plastic food ware Hoiyin Ip

Enough! Time to break free from plastic food ware. Hoiyin Ip all rights reserved

When 2020 was starting, plastic bans were gaining more momentum than ever in the state. In January, Newport Beach Water Quality/Coastal Tidelands Committee approved our proposed Trash and Toxics Reduction Ordinance, though councilman Jeff Herdman, who voted no, questioned “is the City going to follow the lead of Sacramento and dictate how residents will live?” This is a common thought in Orange County. 
I started working with Newport Beach on a plastic ban in 2017. The political will has been inching forward on a zigzag pattern. As a member of the Orange County Trash and Debris Task Force, I know Newport Beach has been the most willing to work on a plastic ban in recent years. And, we were able to expand the scope to include foodware with PFAS.
PFAS are the waterproof chemicals used on many paper foodware and other products, commonly called “forever chemicals.” They’re linked to cancer and other diseases, and have been found to contaminate water wells throughout the country. Eleven Orange County water districts filed a lawsuit over PFAS contaminants. Washington, Maine, New York and some Californian cities, such as San Francisco and Berkeley, have regulated foodware with PFAS, and Sierra Club has a campaign.
As we all know, two of COVID’s impacts to municipalities are: 1) less revenues, 2) more litter and cleanup costs. In October, Newport Beach extended the beach refuse container collection service by Rainbow Disposal for $200,000 a year.  
In November, the City Attorney finally reviewed and approved the ordinance. Then, the committee meetings have been cancelled for December, January and February. It’s unknown when the ordinance will go to City Council. If you’re a resident, send a simple email to the City Council (, ask what their plan is for the ocean economy and public health, and urge them to approve the ordinance for their own children and grandchildren. 
What I appreciate in this campaign is the support by the Committee and Chamber of Commerce. Together, we’ve done movie screenings, surveys, art exhibits and educational materials. It’s about keeping moving, even if it’s just a baby step. 




Poseidon Desalination Plant, Huntington Beach, CA

King Tides Poseidon Desalination Plant - Huntington Beach, CA

One of Orange County’s biggest environmental fights is the Poseidon ocean desalination project in Huntington Beach. In July, the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) held two ten-hour days of hearing. The Sierra Club and partner organizations worked hard to educate the public, alert and encourage them to speak in opposition. Most of the elected official speakers spoke on day one, and out of the 28 of them, only three opposed it: Kelly Rowe of Orange County Water District (OCWD), Doug Reinhart and Peer Swan of Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). Out of 175 public speakers, 99 opposed the project, and 76 supported it.
This brought media attention to the lobbying activities by Poseidon, a public traded company. Voice of OC and Orange County Register found a chain of evidence. As of June 2020, Poseidon reported $614,500 in cumulative lobbying activities since January 1, 2019. Between September 2020 and the election day, Poseidon spent at least $419,000 to promote OCWD’s Cathy Green and Municipal Water District candidates Debbie Neev, Stacy Taylor and Tyler Diep.. And, Regional Board member Kris Murray received $1,650 when she was on Anaheim city council. 
In October, William von Blasingame, one of Poseidon’s most vocal critics on the Regional Board was not re-appointed by Gov. Newsom.
The next hearing will be held in the spring. We’ll keep everyone posted by emails, Facebook and Twitter
What I appreciate in this campaign is the power of community. For over 10 years, many residents and organizations, including the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter  Water Committee, have tirelessly fought for democracy and affordable water for all. 




Renewable Energy by Peter Bennett

Renewable Energy by Peter Bennett all rights reserved

2020 ended with good energy. After five years of efforts by many residents and organizations, in December, Community Choice Energy (CCE) Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was formed by Irvine, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Buena Park and Lake Forest. This is a major step toward clean energy and clean air, increased environmental justice and local jobs, while we help slow down climate change. Irvine deserves a big thanks for their leadership. 
While ratepayers are waiting to receive electricity through the CCE in 2022, Irvine has other climate work to do. In November, they approved the Strategic Energy Plan to meet California emission reduction targets on buildings, energy and transportation: Title 24, AB 802, SB 100 and AB 32. It’s a great start. But is it enough?
Let’s just take buildings as an example. They account for 75% of the energy use and 56% of operational emissions in Irvine. And Irvine is required to zone for 23,554 new homes by 2029.  For any level of growth, it’s important to start moving towards a gas-free future by electrifying buildings with efficiency standards beyond today’s mandates. 40 municipalities have advanced with policies on all-electric buildings. Irvine is aware of the trend, and included in the Plan: “piloting all-electric construction for a new City facility, and retrofitting an existing site. These are not identified as high-priority at this time.” Why not? The Silverado Fire in October caused a third of Irvine residents to evacuate. Climate change is here and personal.  
What I appreciate in this campaign is again the power of community. And I’m proud of the devotion of the Sierra Club California Energy-Climate Committee. Its members frequently made public comments, wrote letters to the editor and tweets. 
2020 left us with a variety of unfinished work. 2021 is expected to be a busy and emotional year. Buckle up. 

Hoiyin Ip is a member of the Angeles Chapter, and California Zero Waste, Water and Energy-Climate Committees. 


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