Fish and Game Commissioners Blast PG&E Seismic Testing Plan
By: Dan Bacher
Big turnout against seismic testing at Commission meeting
One thing was very clear from the Fish and Game Commission meeting held in Sacramento on Monday, September 24 - the vast majority of people, including Commission members, environmentalists, Indian Tribal representatives, recreational anglers and commercial fishermen, strongly oppose the PG&E's plan to conduct high energy seismic testing off the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
In fact, not one of the approximately 50 speakers, who lined up in the Resources Building to comment about the plan after the PG&E, NOAA, Department of Fish and Game and State Lands Commission representatives made their presentations, supported the plan, arguing that the high energy tests will harass, harm and kill whales, dolphins, salmon, rockfish and other marine life.
A large contingent of members of Greenpeace, along with Morro Bay area commercial fishermen, representatives of the Chumash Indian Tribe, Surfrider members, Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Federation of Fishermen’s Associations and many others, spoke out against the plan. Commission President Jim Kellogg and Commissioner Michael Sutton, who have often disagreed on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative and other issues, both completely agreed on the need to protect marine life from seismic testing in the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve and elsewhere on the Central Coast.
Kellogg stated, "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."
Jim Kellogg: “Not A Marine Life Killing Area”
"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.
"I've seen nothing to convince me that the program is advisable or necessary," said Sutton, referring to the letter from NRDC and other NGOs arguing that the test was not necessary – and that more safe alternatives could be found. "I can't make a recommendation to the Department to issue a permit."
In the reversal of a previous position, Karen Garrison, a senior policy analyst with NRDC’s oceans program and co-director of its ocean program, told California Coastal Commission staff in a September 17 memo, “In summary, we have concluded that the survey will provide only marginal additional informational information that will not affect the safety of the Diablo plant. (http://www.rockofthecoast.com/2012/09/20/nrdc-calls-for-stop-to-pge-seismic-test-urges-coastal-commission-to-deny-permit) '
“We recommend that the Coastal Commission deny the permit," said Garrison. "If the project goes forward, all possible steps should be taken to minimize to harm to the marine environment, and to mitigate impacts that are unavoidable.”
Commissioner Richard Rogers revealed that fishermen have reported being impacted by the low level testing that is currently being conducted off Diablo Canyon. "I have already heard from commercial fishermen that that the low level testing has cost them 50 percent of their catch. This Commission is watching," he said.
The overwhelming opposition to the plan was evidenced by Commission Executive Director Sonke Mastrup, who said he was deluged with faxes opposing the testing until the machine broke and received 40,000 emails before the website shut down.
"In the end, the Commissioners filled the shoes of giants, directing their staff to attend the upcoming California Coastal Commission meeting, and making sure everyone in the state knew they would not be tolerating any destructive activity in our Marine Protected Areas off the coast, such as the Point Buchon State Marine Reserve," said Joey Racano of the Ocean Outfall Group and the Stop Diablo Canyon Testing Facebook Community. (http://www.facebook.com/StopTheDiabloCanyonSeismicTesting?ref=ts)
No decision was made at the meeting, since it was a special workshop to gather information and discuss the status of PG&E’s proposed Central Coast seismic imaging project, PG&E’s application for a Scientific Collecting Permit and the California Department of Fish and Game’s draft parameters for that permit. Agency staff also discussed the Commission’s regulatory authorities, roles of other state and federal agencies and plans to minimize study impacts and lessons learned for future projects.
The Commission has regulatory authority to protect natural resources and oversee Marine Protected Areas, including those near Diablo Canyon, according to a DFG news release. However, the Fish and Game Commission does not have authority to manage whales, dolphins or sea otters. Marine mammals are protected under federal authorities.
Chumash representatives slam plan, lack of consultation
Representatives of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council said they strongly opposed the seismic testing plan – and hadn’t been formally consulted by PGE, 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."
In a letter read to the Commission, Tribal Chair Antonette Cordero requested a meeting with Kellogg and Commission staff – and said she will also be contacting PG&E to schedule a meeting with their project staff.
“I have been informed by the States Land Commission that PG&E committed to reaching out to all Chumash tribal entities and other affected Native American groups after it was revealed that their initial outreach was inadequate,” said Cordero.”However, I, as tribal chair of the Coastal Bank of the Chumash Nation, have not been contacted.”
“Our right to defend our culture, our ancestors and our marine relatives is guaranteed under federal laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, under California laws, such as the California Environmental Quality Act and the Marine Life Protection Act, and under international accords, such as the United States Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our obligation to steward these areas comes from the Creator and pre-dates state, federal or international laws,” said Cordero.
The Barbareno Chumash Council of Santa Barbara also opposed the testing in a statement. “The territorial, cultural, and religious rights of the Chumash Nation are being challenged and undermined in insidious ways by Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant establishment. The Chumash Nation has an inherit right and International Right, to determine what is beneficial, safe and unendangered of our future generations of all life whom thrive on our lands and waters from Morro Bay to Santa Monica Bay. This Right and responsibility has been given to us by the creator since time immemorial,” the Council stated.
The big risk to whales and other marine life revealed!
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,1,485 Southern Sea Otters, 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. (http://calcoastnews.com/2012/08/the-gory-details-of-diablos-seismic-testing)
PG&E delays and downsizes project
A few days after the meeting, PG&E requested a postponement and downsizing of the project, in response to the tremendous opposition to the plan.
The Commission will now hear the seismic testing proposal at the Coastal Commission meeting on November 14 in Santa Monica. The project now only includes the northern study area, according to Diana Chapman of the Commission.
PG&E hadn’t responded to my request for more information by press time
“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 Racano.
“There are alternatives to the ‘air cannon’ method PG and E wants to use that will produce better results and save our marine environment. Demand that they be used,” he said. Snail Mail or FAX your concerns 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.
Assembly Bill 1632 (Blakeslee) 2006 required the California Energy Commission (CEC) to compile and assess potential vulnerabilities to a major disruption of the State’s two nuclear facilities due to aging or from a major seismic event. In 2008, a previously undiscovered fault zone was found in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and the CEC issued a report concluding that three-dimensional geophysical seismic reflection mapping and other advanced techniques should be used to explore fault zones near Diablo Canyon.
In 2009, the CEC and the California Public Utilities Commission directed PG&E to complete the three-dimensional geophysical studies recommended by the CEC. The State Lands Commission (SLC), lead agency on the proposed project, certified the EIR for the project on Aug. 14 and on Aug. 20 SLC adopted the Mitigation Monitoring Program, Findings, and Statement of Overriding Considerations.
Additionally, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) will consider PG&E’s application for a coastal development permit at their November 14 meeting in Santa Monica
List of upcoming events and meetings (http://www.facebook.com/StopTheDiabloCanyonSeismicTesting?ref=ts):
October 6th and 7th, Tabling for letters at the Harbor Festival, come work with the STDCST team
October 10th, LIGHTS OUT AGAINST SEISMIC TESTING! Join people throughout California as we dim our lights for 1 hour starting at 8:00pm Pacific Standard Time in a statewide show of solidarity against seismic testing at both Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Nuclear Waste Plants.
October 8th, On the new moon, come take part in the first ever Avila Calling of the Whales Light Festival, on the beach in Avila! You will need to bring your own flashlight. Singers, ceremony, whale song and LIGHTS! Details to be announced.
November 14, California Coastal Commission in Santa Monica. Be there, call or Fax them, or write them a letter at: 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