Two conservation groups sued January 15 to halt a proposed desalination plant that would piggyback on an aging power plant in Carlsbad owned by NRG Energy. The Planning and Conservation League and Surfrider Foundation sued the California Coastal Commission for approving the project to remove the salt from seawater. The groups assert the agency violated the California Coastal Act. The agency’s approval is invalid because it “failed to proceed in the manner required by law and its findings, determinations, or decisions are not supported by substantial evidence in light of the whole record,” the suit asserts. The facility would create 50 million gallons of potable water a day from coastal water. To do so, it would use hot water from the power plant to reduce the high energy use required by desalination. The coastal commission approved the proposal last November on a 9-3 vote, but required a number of conditions to reduce the project’s environmental impacts. The suing parties claim the dredging needed to accommodate the project would adversely impact the nearby estuary and its marine critters. They also assert that the project “does not minimize energy consumption,” which is also contrary to the Coastal Act. “This legal challenge–like the ones before it–lacks merit and blindly ignores over eight years of environmental research and study relied upon by permitting and regulatory agencies that have approved this project,” the desalination project developer Poseidon stated. “Project construction is anticipated to begin by the end of 2008 and the lawsuit will not significantly disrupt this timeframe,” it claimed. The coastal commission was reviewing the matter and had no comment as of press time. “We have started working with Poseidon on the marine life mitigation plan and the energy minimization plan they need to develop for further Commission approval,” said Tom Luster, coastal commission analyst. A widespread coupling of power plant and desalination facilities is opposed by many environmentalists and some conservation agencies because of the impacts to aquatic life. The harm is principally caused by the power plants’ outdated cooling technology that wreaks havoc on fish and other organisms pulled into intakes or subjected to the power plants’ warmed wastewater discharges.