[BREAKING:] California Coastal Commission Denies PG&E Seismic Studies Off Central Coast

Categories: Environment
See the breaking news update at the end of this post on the Coastal Commission's denial of PG&E's seismic studies proposal and foe Surfrider's reaction.

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ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 13, 12:02 P.M.: As the Coastal Commission considers Pacific Gas & Electric's Fukushima-inspired plan to fire underwater cannons off Central California to study seismic activity around the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation is releasing a grim toll.

It's based on the commission's own estimates drawn from the proposal.

See also:
Seismic Tests for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Draw Surfrider and Fishermen Opposition
Remembering Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Disaster ... in San Clemente and San Onofre
San Onofre Nuclear Plant Adds Shaky Sensor Problem to Other Recent Woes

Matt McClain, Surfrider's marketing and communications director, sent an email inviting members to participate in an anti-test rally planned outside Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, which is where the Coastal Commission is scheduled to meet starting Wednesday morning. In the invite, McClain cites these Coastal Commission staff estimates on whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that will be harassed, harmed or killed by the seismic blasts, which have been likened to bombs exploding underwater:

    Fin whale** 205
    Humpback whale** 258
    Blue whale** 116
    Minke whale 7
    Short Beaked Dolphin 920
    Long Beaked dolphin 54
    Small beaked whale 65
    Harbor porpoise 2328
    Dall's porpoise 412
    Pacific white-sided dolphin 98
    Risso's dolphin 54
    Northern right whale dolphin 41
    Bottlenose dolphin 13
    Sperm whale 1
    Harbor seal 48
    California sea lion 2489
    Pacific sea otter** 352

    ** denotes federally endangered species


Here is a link to the Coastal Commish report: http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2012/11/W13b-11-2012.pdf (data is on pages 28-29).

For those quick to criticize activists who cite potential animal deaths as caring more for critters than human beings, you should know that McClain also notes that firing underwater air cannons every 15 seconds, day and night, for 17 days also has the potential to harm surfers, divers and other people in the water. 

He also cites the opinions of researchers, including a U.S. Geologic Survey scientist, who claim "this project is duplicative and may not answer key questions regarding plant safety.  PG&E has not made the case that these destructive tests are necessary to improve plant safety."

And for those who don't give a shit about anywhere other than their own backyards, McClain points out that the central coast tests will likely soon be followed by blasts off southern Orange County and/or northen San Diego County to gauge seismic effects on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS).

According to PG&E--which would hand off any southern tests to SONGS operator Southern California Edison--this is much ado about not much. It's own estimates on marine mammal harm from the blasts are much lower than the Coastal Commission's staff's are.

"PG&E is committed to conducting the 3-D high-energy offshore seismic study safely and in a manner that results in the least impact to the environment through implementing numerous marine mammal protection measures," claims the energy company's website. It goes on to detail how the protection measures include monitoring for marine mammals in the test area with human and electronic eyes and shooting off the underwater blasts at times the least number of species are close by.
 
That's not enough for Surfrider, which is trying to spark the kind of "Save Trestles"-type outrage that packed government hearings and fought off a proposal (so far) to extend an Orange County toll road through San Onofre State Park and alongside the famous surfing beach.

Rally participants are invited to a Surfrider-hosted pancake breakfast that begins at 7 a.m. Wednesday at Jinky's Café, 1447 2nd St., Santa Monica. The rally at Santa Monica Civic's East Wing, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica, begins at 9 a.m.

If you can't attend, you are invited to tweet your opposition:

Here is a sample tweet you can use:  "THOUSANDS OF MARINE MAMMALS AT RISK! @surfrider rally next Wed, Nov 14th in Santa Monica to protest seismic testing!! http://seismic.surfrider.org/2012/764/"

For more info on all of this, visit http://seismic.surfrider.org.

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE, NOV. 14, 5:17 P.M.: After about eight hours of testimony, the California Coastal Commission today denied Pacific Gas & Electric the necessary permit to conduct seismic testing off the Central California coast, unanimously finding the project inconsistent with the Coastal Act.

This, of course, delighted the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, whose activists were among the dozens of ocean lovers who decried the proposal before the commission today.

"We are pleased the California Coastal Commission strongly upheld the Coastal Act by denying this terribly harmful project," says Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, Surfrider's California policy manager, in a statement.

"The large public attendance today demonstrates just how citizens can greatly influence decision makers. Surfrider Foundation believes taxpayers, ocean users and marine life are better off because of this decision."

Environmentalists and others, including recreational fishermen, maintain that similar surveying information already exists and the project unnecessarily puts marine life at risk.

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