CA Coastal Commission Denies PG&E Seismic Testing Permit

Great Whale Conservancy Applauds California Coastal Commission Decision!

On November 15th, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to deny a permit to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to conduct seismic testing off the coast of California near the Diablo Canyon and San Onofre nuclear power facilities.

Both facilities are approaching relicensing deadlines, and a recently passed California law requires more analysis of the fault lines located near the plants, which were built in seismically active areas in the 1970 -1980’s.  While several options exist for conducting the sea-floor mapping analysis, PG&E proposed dragging an array of 18 air canons below the surface and emitting blasts of 250dB every 20 seconds for 42 days. 

The company’s proposal acknowledged there would be hundreds of “takes” of marine mammals during the testing procedure, which would be used to map the fault lines a few miles off-shore from the nuclear facilities.  “Takes,” as described by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, are anything from an annoyance that alters the behavior of the animal to more serious impacts and even death.  Given the size and repetitive nature of the blasts, there was a significant chance that many whales and other marine mammals would have been killed from ruptured eardrums.  They would almost certainly have been driven from the area, which at minimum would have forced them to leave critical feeding areas as winter approaches.  It was also acknowledged by the company that there could be a serious impact on local fish stocks.

A coalition of local citizens who love and respect these magnificent animals, along with fisherman, tourism companies, and civic leaders led by an ad hoc steering group formed by Joey Racano of Avila Beach, (see the Facebook page “stop the diablo canyon seismic testing”) held numerous meetings and actions to get people to write letters and testify in person as the issue was debated by State agencies.  GWC offered to help, and in October we went to Avila Beach with Mz Blue (see photo) to help Joey and his group educate and motivate the public to get involved. 

On November 15th, the California Coastal Commission met to review the application.  With hundreds of people in the room and thousands of letters in hand, the Commission voted unanimously to deny the permit!  It was a remarkable victory over the biggest energy utility corporation in California.

Our sincere thanks to Joey Racano and his team in California and everyone else who participated in this wonderful effort.  Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page (greatwhaleconservancy) for updates on this issue, and many other matters of importance regarding the protection of great whales and other marine mammals around the world.

Gershon Cohen PhD
Co-Director, GWC

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