Rebuttal: Another point of view on the desalination issue from Dewey Magee and Errol Summerlin of Portland

Corpus Christi Bay (Matt Pierce/Getty Images)

By: Dewey Magee and Errol Summerlin, Portland, Texas residents

It was just a matter of time before someone would try to claim that local efforts against the status quo manner of operating local government were being manipulated by outsiders. It happened when Portland Citizens United (PCU) was fighting the Exxon/SAUDI plastics facility. Texans for Natural Gas wrote this big piece about how the fight was influenced by outside interests who were supporting lawyers to fight the permit.

We of course countered that PCU started with only 4 or 5 individuals who did not like that Exxon was seeking $1 Billion in tax abatements to build the facility here. That was a locally driven battle where local folks showed up at County Commissioners Court, City Halls, and School Boards. The day Exxon got the tax relief, they announced they would build and filed for their TCEQ permits. We continued to battle but, let’s face it, Exxon had plenty of lawyers and we welcomed the legal assistance provided gratis by the Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, and Earthjustice. We would be foolish to have said no to their help. So, all of a sudden the battle was being waged by outsiders. That was pure nonsense; so is the position taken in the October 11, 2020 article in this news site.

Industry controls the Port; the Port controls the City and uses the Economic Development Corporations to further the industrialization of the area. They spend millions every year on PR and donations that quell outspoken opposition to their efforts.

Small groups who have no voice are clearly out-weighed by the massive amount of money being spent to sway public opinion and silence those who oppose the destructive path upon which we are embarking; a dismal vision of the future of the Coastal Bend.

So, small groups like the Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend, Fort the Greater Good, Clean Economy Coalition, and others working alone cannot possibly confront these forces.
So, two years ago, CAPE was formed; an alliance of many local organizations who came together to strategize on how we could collectively combat what we all see as a path to an irreversible decimation of our public health, our bays, and our quality of life. And guess what, this alliance gave folks some extra localized energy and hope.

So, when For the Greater Good announced they wanted to have the people decide about desalination to force more robust and transparent discussions about the science and the costs through the Charter initiative, they had a lot of local support from volunteers, ready to make the copies, buy the tables, gather the signatures, verify those signatures and deliver them to the City secretary. Make no mistake, this was a local initiative.

Had COVID -19 not come along, this would have been a slam dunk and it would be on the ballot in November. All of the events like Earth Day/Bay Day, weekly farmers markets, and others, were set for local volunteers to be at the tables. But, a week into the campaign, lockdown; and subsequently all public events were cancelled. The only recourse was mailings, social media, and other methods that were extremely costly.

They knew they could combat the money interests that exist here by person to person contact, by reaching out and talking to folks. But that was taken away and they needed financial resources to get the word out in the most personal way they could. So, you bet, any funds were welcome.

Just as with the fight against Exxon, what For the Greater Good was doing caught the attention of many outside the Coastal Bend who saw what was happening, including individuals from all over the state who come to the Coastal Bend to recreate; folks who see what is happening to what many consider the final vestige of paradise in Texas, where you can truly recreate and enjoy the abundance of wildlife, fishing, and simply building castles in the sand.

It also caught the attention of state and national organizations. And when financial assistance was offered, it was enthusiastically accepted. As noted in the article, Texas Campaign for the Environment has been involved in some worthy causes. As a statewide organization, they have
succeeded in campaigns on local and statewide recycling and Zero Waste policies and supported
neighbors of problem landfills that threaten water supplies.

It is no surprise they saw this effort as a worthy cause as well.

Supporters of the Charter Amendment almost succeeded despite COVID. But, there is no shame in accepting help and no reason to deny it. After all, Exxon corporate headquarters contributed to the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program and their Chairman submits comments in favor of Exxon’s Air and Water Permits. Exxon also donated to the Texas State Aquarium and the CEO appears at the TCEQ Public meeting on Exxon’s Air Permit and stated he supported the issuance of the permit. Is there any shame in that?

Finally, as far as the science is concerned, the article states there are over a dozen desalination facilities operating, including seawater desalination. That is factually wrong. There are no seawater desalination facilities operating in Texas. None. This is the first. And, the science regarding building one in a closed bay system is not at all settled. The Texas legislature, the Texas General Land Office, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have encouraged seawater desalination facilities where intake and discharge is directly from and to the Gulf of Mexico. That is what is being ignored in this folly upon which both the Port and the City are engaged.

*Publication Note: First off, we will always publish rebuttals and opposing points such as these if they are well thought out and well intentioned. We respectfully appreciate those who spent the time to file this rebuttal. (2) Information obtained for the original article was obtained from the Texas Water Development Board and properly noted that there were currently no saltwater desalination units in operation for MUNICIPAL water supply. SSLN

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