September 1, 2017

California lawmakers block Mojave water bill, Cadiz surges

Amboy Crater lies 20 miles west of Cadiz in the eastern Mojave Desert in this undated photo. (Courtesy Bureau of Land Management)

Reporting by Noel Randewich

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Shares of water resource developer Cadiz Inc (CDZI.O) surged 32 percent in extended trade on Friday after a bill aimed at clogging up its plan to pump water from California’s Mojave Desert failed to make it past a state Senate committee.

In a blow to environmentalists and other opponents of the project, California’s Senate Appropriations Committee held Bill AB 1000, known as the California Desert Protection Act, instead of advancing it.

“I‘m deeply disappointed that the state legislature is actively blocking a bill to prevent Cadiz - one of the Trump administration’s pet projects - from destroying the Mojave Desert,” U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said in a statement.

AB 1000 would require additional state government certifications that could stop plans by Cadiz to capture groundwater that it says would otherwise evaporate under 34,000 acres of land it owns in the eastern Mojave Desert.

Aimed at supplying water for 400,000 people, the Cadiz Water Project has already been approved by two California public agencies and withstood court challenges.

“The Cadiz Project will add a new reliable water supply in Southern California and safely and sustainably manage groundwater that is otherwise lost to evaporation,” Cadiz spokeswoman Courtney Degener said in a statement after the committee’s decision.

Under President Donald Trump, the Bureau of Land Management in March undid two Obama-era directives preventing Cadiz from using a federal railroad right-of-way to build a water pipeline.

Cadiz’s stock had lost a fifth of its value earlier in Friday’s session ahead of the Senate committee’s meeting. Its after-the-bell surge following the committee’s decision more than made up for that loss.

California Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday sent a letter to legislative leaders urging them to pass the bill and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom sent a similar missive.

Had the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the bill, it would have faced additional legislative hurdles before Brown could sign it.