• Steve Brown

Senators Toni Atkins and Anthony Portantino prevent Senate from vote on protecting the desert

Mojave Watch has just learned that California Senate President pro Tem, Toni Atkins, with help from Senator Anthony Portantino, have prevented a vote by the Senate on SB120, which would have helped protect the eastern Mojave Desert from the Cadiz water project's potentially devastating impact on wildlife.

"I am so sorry to report that SB120 was held in Senate appropriations and will not pass this session," wrote David Lamfrom, director of California Desert and National Wildlife Programs for the National Parks Conservation Association this evening. "I am so disappointed."

The California Assembly had passed SB120 earlier this week, with bipartisan support. The legislation had broad support in both the Assembly and Senate, as well as from Senator Dianne Feinstein, and numerous others.

"We were so very close, and we had the votes in the senate to pass if the bill was released to the floor," Lamfrom explained. "Ultimately, Sen Pro Tem Toni Atkins was the reason it did not progress, and she had Sen Portantino hold the bill."

Atkins' decision to not allow a vote on SB120 raises some ethical questions related to her conduct, as she has received campaign contributions from both Cadiz Inc., as well as Cadiz CFO Tim Shaheen, according to a report in the San Diego Reader. SB120 would have required much more stringent environmental studies before the Cadiz Water Project, a project to mine groundwater from the eastern Mojave Desert at a rate of more than 16 billion gallons per year, to sell to Orange County. The project could seriously threaten wildlife already coping with increasing heat and decreasing access to water sources, by lowering water levels and drying major springs that are sources of life in the desert.

"There are many facets to the Cadiz campaign, and we will continue our effort to protect our desert and our monuments," Lamfrom concluded. The decision of Senator Atkins after receiving cash donations from Cadiz Inc. to prevent what appeared to be an affirmative vote in the senate on SB120, makes that effort harder. And it's clear senators Atkins and Portantino are no friends to California wildlife, the environment, or the Mojave Desert.

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