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PG&E delays and downsizes seismic testing proposal


By: Dan Bacher

Photo of Joey Racano speaking at Fish and Game Commission meeting in Sacramento on September 24 by Dan Bacher.
October 2, 2012 - Pacific Gas and Electric will delay and downsize its seismic testing proposed off the Central Coast near the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plan, according to a statement from the company on September 28.

The announcement took four days after a Fish and Game Commission meeting in Sacramento where Commission members, environmentalists, Indian Tribal representatives, recreational anglers and commercial fishermen voiced their strong opposition to PG&E's plan to conduct high energy seismic testing off the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant because of the big threat the testing poses to whales, dolphins, salmon, rockfish and other marine life.

Jim Kellogg, President of the Fish and Game Commission, eloquently said at the meeting, "I have been involved since the beginning of the MLPA process and I fought hard to get the best deal for the anglers... Now I will be the strongest advocate to keep protections in place. I've asked PG&E if it would would do a world wide search to for other technology to conduct these safety tests."

"It's a Marine Life Protection Area, not a Marine Life Killing Area and as long as I'm here we're not gonna recommend to the Department anything that's killing anything that we're trying to protect," emphasized Kellogg.

In reaction to the comments by Kellogg and many others, PG&E in its statement responded, "To address community and regulator feedback regarding its proposed high-energy offshore seismic study near the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, PG&E will submit a modified survey proposal to the California Coastal Commission for consideration during its November meeting." (http://www.pgecurrents.com/2012/09/28/pge-to-submit-modified-seismic-study-proposal-to-california-coastal-commission)

"Under PG&E's revised proposal, the utility will seek approval to conduct limited research in late November through December of this year, focusing on studying only one of the three proposed survey areas located near Diablo Canyon," the company said.

PG&E will use the R/V Marcus Langseth, owned by the National Science Foundation, to do seismic testing.

PG&E said the proposal has "two main purposes — to confirm the technology selected for the seismic research is appropriate and ensure the many marine life monitoring and protection measures the utility developed in coordination with various stakeholders and regulatory agencies are effective."

"We understand that members of the San Luis Obispo community and other stakeholders have concerns about the high-energy seismic survey called for by the state and proposed by PG&E to begin this November," said Jearl Strickland, PG&E's director of nuclear projects. "We also understand people are concerned about the seismic nature of our region and they want to see this research performed."

"PG&E is committed to conducting all of our seismic research safely and in a manner that respects community and environmental values. We appreciate the public and regulator input we have received and continue to work collaboratively to find a balanced solution," said Strickland.

The survey is expected to last approximately 12 days and will focus on studying portions of the Hosgri, Los Osos and Shoreline fault zones in the region of Estero Bay. The survey will not overlap into the Point Buchon Marine Protected Area, according to PG&E.

According to the statement, "PG&E's advanced seismic research was called for by the state and includes the use of on-shore and off-shore low and high-energy seismic studies, as well as the installation of ocean-bottom sensors to detect seismic activity. The data will provide a more accurate and detailed picture of the region's complex geology, and will help further define the level of seismic activity faults in the region of Diablo Canyon are capable of producing. PG&E will use this data to support its ongoing seismic safety program work that continually assesses and validates the seismic design of the facility."

"Recent findings by federal agencies have determined that the environmental impact of the proposed research may result in a temporary disturbance of marine mammals and fish in the survey areas. Those findings are supported by similar projects around the world, which have not identified adverse, long-term impacts to marine life," the statement continued.

"To limit potential impacts to marine life, PG&E will implement numerous mitigation and monitoring programs before, during and after the survey period, which includes the use of trained species observers, aerial surveys and establishing marine mammal protection zones. The work will be continually monitored by the National Marine Fisheries Service, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies," the company said.

Ocean advocates: threat to whales and fish continues

Environmentalists, fishermen and tribal members continue to strongly oppose the downsized seismic testing plan.

"The project has been delayed and downsized, but the plan remains dangerous, destructive and unnecessary and threatens Morro Bay Estuary State Marine Reserve, Cambria State Marine Reserve, and to the Northwest, Davidson Seamount," said Joey Racano of the Stop the Diablo Canyon Seismic Testing Facebook Community. (http://www.facebook.com/StopTheDiabloCanyonSeismicTesting?ref=ts) "There are alternatives to the ‘air cannon' method PG and E can use that will produce better results and save our marine environment. Demand that they be used."

The tremendous risk the seismic testing presents to whales, dolphins and other marine life is starkly revealed on page 121 of the "Central Coastal California Seismic Imaging Project Environmental Assessment" under Section 4.12.5, Potential Numbers of 'Takes by Harassment.' (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/09/17/18721842.php)

The worst case scenario (including a 25% contingency) of "take by harassment" includes 1 Minke Whale, 2 Sperm Whales, 5 Dwarf Sperm Whales, 15 Blue Whales, 97 California Gray Whales, 25 Fin Whales, 13 Humpback Whales, 1 Short-Finned Pilot Whale, 3 Baird's Beak, 7 Killer Whales, 8 Striped Dolphins, 8 Small Beaked Whales, 81 Dall's Porpoise, 82 Long-Beaked Dolphins, 98 Risso's Dolphins, 114 Northern Right Whale Dolphins, 198 Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, 1,652 Bottlenose Dolphins, 1,834 Short-Beaked Dolphins, 76 Harbor Seals, 1,062 California Sea Lions and 1,485 Southern Sea Otters. This scenario also includes untold sea turtles of several varieties, numerous fish and bird species and the next generation sea life including nearly 4 million larva of all types, according to Julie Tacker, San Luis Obispo activist and former LOSCD director. (http://calcoastnews.com/2012/08/the-gory-details-of-diablos-seismic-testing)

Representatives of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council at the September 24 Fish and Game Commission said they strongly oppose the seismic testing plan – and hadn't been formally consulted by PG&E, state and federal authorities about the project, as is required by state, federal and international laws.

"We have been here for 18,000 years and you we don't give you permission to take wildlife off our coast," said Fred Collins, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Administrator. (http://northernchumash.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/coastline-concerns/)

Collins drove the 12 hour round trip to speak, for only the 2 minutes allowed, to the Commission, asking them to not permit the seismic testing.

In a follow up statement, Collins said, "I find it very difficult to comprehend how under duress the animals, plants, trees and living things, which include us, how close to the edge of oblivion we have come. When it shows up on your door step it becomes a defiant wake up call. It's good to see everyone working together to prevent this from happening - this is what is necessary for our children's children to have a future."

The Morro Bay Estuary State Marine Reserve, Cambria State Marine Reserve and other marine protected areas were created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, overseen by a big oil lobbyist and other corporate operatives. A broad coalition of fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots strongly criticized the statewide process for failing to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, seismic and military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

However, the public now has a unique chance to extend marine protection in California waters to threats posed by seismic testing, oil drilling and other activities of ocean industrialists.

Racano urged people to mail or FAX their concerns about the testing to the California Coastal Commission at: California Coastal Commission, Central Coast District Office, Dan Carl, Deputy Director 725 Front Street, Suite 300 Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4508 (831) 427-4863, FAX (831) 427-4877.

Joey Racano: Stop the "Death Ship!"

In other news, Racano stated, "We have discovered that the so-called ‘Death Ship' now doing ‘low energy' testing off the Central Coast has been operating on a permit that not only expired 27 years ago, but was never reviewed every 5 years to include new information, such as the area is now a patchwork of Marine Protected Areas."

"We are already losing Thresher and Salmon Sharks, Otters and our Sea Lions have bloody noses," he said.

Racano urged people to call Senator Barbara Boxer at: 202 224-3553 and demand that the "Death Ship" be stopped immediately. Call Lois Capps and tell her you demand action or you're not voting for her at: DC Phone: (202) 225-3601, FAX: (202) 225-5632


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