Delta Flows: The Delta Conveyance Project, Texas-Style

For decades, Anti-California sentiment has been part of American media news coverage, which sadly too often measures state success only in terms of corporate success. The trope, “what is wrong with California,” does not evaluate the societal, environmental, and economic outcomes that would improve the quality of life for working people within our state. It places two segments of an incomplete narrative side-by-side for consideration: a state can succeed through corporate growth, or it can fail. Corporate responsibility is never delineated when the media frames the story as to whether corporations are thriving or failing in California.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times about AECOM moving its headquarters to Dallas accurately asserts that “Texas state officials have for years been trying to lure California businesses, enticing them with fewer state environmental regulations, a lower cost of living, and no personal income tax.” The story then lists corporations that have moved to Texas for a “favorable” corporate climate. The report, however, does not question if there were societal obligations for these corporations with state and regional government agencies, or for the public good in California.

How does this reporting relate to the Delta Conveyance Project? Jacobs Engineering Group is listed in this LA Times story as another formerly California-based company that has relocated to Texas for sweeter corporate incentives and for reduced environmental regulation, albeit they deny these reasons for relocation. 

Unfortunately, the report failed to reveal that Jacobs Engineering has a $93 million contract for Delta tunnel work.

California state agencies and public water districts should not be hiring Texas firms to do projects funded by California taxpayers, especially seeing that the motivation for the move was to pay less in corporate taxes and to dodge meaningful environmental regulations in California. It is quite ironic infuriating that Jacobs Engineering is under contract with California public agencies to do a project that these agencies dub inauthentically as “environmentally friendly.” It is also maddening that Jacobs Engineering is profiting off of State Water Project ratepayers and taxpayers (including low income SWP ratepayers), after moving to a state with few environmental regulations as climate change accelerates. 

Californians are sophisticated thinkers and want public works projects that protect the public good while creating profitability — not a dry Delta tunnel, which will do neither, and that will benefit out of state corporations.

A majority of Californians, unlike Texas lawmakers, also believe in the societal contract with corporations. If laws provide corporations with limited liabilities and unlimited profit potential, and taxpayer dollars via government contracts fill their coffers, then isn’t it reasonable to conclude that a corporation, like Jacobs Engineering, owes a debt back to California? Shouldn’t such a company be promoting environmental protection and keeping its payroll within our state?

In the case of the Delta tunnel, the Design Construction Authority and Department of Water Resources are failing to fulfill the public’s desire for infrastructure projects that meet strong environmental standards while creating profitability by continuing with this Texas firm. The project is about powerful interests profiting from, while depleting, our water and fishery resources, throwing limited dollars at Delta communities for superficial local “benefits,” and expecting taxpayers and ratepayers to foot the bill for big business Texas-style. 

If Jacobs Engineering is comfortable with placing its headquarters in a state that is failing to protect its residents from COVID, that has little regard for the environment, and that has a power grid in more trouble than California’s (improvements are being made incrementally in our power grid system, not so much in Texas), then Jacobs Engineering should pursue public contracts in Texas, not in California where the public good still matters.

Companies that break the societal contract with California for easy business terms in other states are neither worthy of positioning by the media as industry trend-setters, nor should they be rewarded with California’s public funding. California’s government agencies, that are allowing this Texas firm to continue with Delta tunnel planning from its Texas digs, are also failing to promote California business and environmental interests.

Let others know how a Texas engineering firm is profiting from the Delta tunnel and California’s natural resources. As always, the grassroots will need to get the word out because the media missed the point by reporting only on favorable corporate conditions, while failing to mention the other half of the story. Jacobs Engineering is disrespecting California, Texas-style, and our California government agencies are allowing it to happen.

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