Coastal Commission Puts Kibosh on Diablo Seismic Tests

By Published On: November 16, 2012

The California Coastal Commission Nov. 14 prohibited Pacific Gas & Electric from conducting high-energy sonic tests for 3-D seismic data gathering near the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. The unanimous vote negated the state’s previous regulatory approval of the project. “PG&E underestimated the enormous risks to marine life,” said coastal commissioner Pam O’Conner. “We can’t predict earthquakes,” added commissioner Jana Zimmer. PG&E director of state agency relations Mark Krausse stressed in the public meeting prior to the vote that testing would “reduce uncertainties.” He said the vote pits “public safety” against “environmental protection.” “Seismic surveys are among the loudest anthropogenic underwater sound sources . .. [they] have the potential to adversely affect marine resources and the biological productivity of coastal waters by causing the disturbance, injury, and loss of marine organisms,” noted commission staff. Among the issues that turned the commission against the plan to conduct sonic blast tests 24 hours/day for 12 days are: -The use of the data gathered would not lead to changing Diablo Canyon engineering to make it safer; -Inability to monitor effects on marine life due to problems seeing through vast amounts of ocean, especially at night; -The small (less than 2,000) population of harbor porpoise, which are not only highly sensitive, but would be unable to forage; and, -No state mandate to conduct high-energy tests. “I feel like a mosquito in a nudist colony, I don’t know where to start” on my opposition to the impacts, said commissioner James Wickett. Of the 100 people who spoke at the meeting, several fishermen and shore observers in the area noted that the low-energy seismic tests already underway offshore appear to be changing the habits of sea otters and fish. Some said fish catch suddenly declined after the tests began. There was a unanimous anti-nuclear stance among all who spoke at the meeting other than the PG&E representative. The commission had its own undercurrent. “They ought to close the plants and fix the plants,” said commission member Martha McClure, who represents conservative Del Norte County, where she is a county supervisor. Wickett agreed outright and several did so indirectly, urging other regulators to take on the task. The California Public Utilities Commission authorized $64 million to carry out the Diablo Canyon data gathering. According to both the Division of Ratepayer Advocates and the utility, ratepayers are to pay only for expenses incurred. PG&E did not have an estimate of what those costs are to date for Current. According to Zimmer, the utility told her it has “committed” $40 million so far.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now