Habitat for porpoises and sea otters is expected to suffer “significant and unavoidable” impacts if Pacific Gas & Electric goes through with its expanded seismic studies surrounding the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. In a draft Environmental Impact Report released by the State Lands Commission March 16, the state found that many of the impacts over which it’s concerned can be mitigated by the utility’s plans. But, some remain implacable. They include air quality, marine biological resources, greenhouse gases, and land use/recreation, according to the draft. The state is concerned that areas affected by the seismic studies include the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, as well as Cambria and White Rock Marine Protected Areas. The concept for the $64 million in studies is to reveal hazards prior to a 20-year license extension for the nuclear facility. Environmentalists support the studies with the caveat that an independent panel oversee spending. The state commission has been pushing back, claiming the work is dangerous. This draft Environmental Impact Report is the first volley on the seismic investigation’s environmental consequences. For instance, the environmental report notes that the work would require 18 air guns to pulse sound into the water. Up to 600 geophones would be placed underwater to pick up that sound. “The EIR found unavoidable impacts to fin, humpback, and blue whales resulting from the noise,” according to the draft. Southern California Edison is requesting similar seismic studies for its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. There is no draft Environmental Impact Report for that project at this time (see sidebar page 4). The proposed decision that grants Edison’s seismic studies allows for a commission committee on spending, but not an independent review committee as environmentalists seek.