Late yesterday (11/14) the California Coastal Commission denied PG&E’s application to conduct high-energy seismic testing within Estero Bay and in the heart of the sea otter’s range. PG&E said the testing was needed to assess the potential magnitude of an earthquake at PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Studies indicated that 62 otters or more could have been harmed or killed by the tests in addition to harbor porpoise, dolphins, whales, fishes and more. The nexus between nuclear safety and the environment required thoughtful consideration and study by all stakeholders. Should sea otters stand (paddle!) in the way of public safety?
The Otter Project was part of a small group of environmental activists that also included the Sierra Club, NRDC, Surfrider, and Coastal Advocates. The small but powerful environmental caucus was supported by a myriad of other groups and by literally hundreds of activists rallied by Surfrider, Ocean Conservancy, Greenpeace, and the Chumash Tribe.
The environmental perspective was 1) nuclear safety is critically important and we need to know if the plant is safe; 2) alternative and less destructive technologies are available to gather the same information; 3) PG&E has not analyzed the low energy data they have already acquired to determine if the high-energy data is even needed and; 4) PG&E has stated that no matter what the result, they believe the plant is adequately constructed and will make no changes.
During its presentation to the Coastal Commission The Otter Project projected pictures of sea otters eliciting loud “ohhh” and “ahhhh” sounds from the crowd and Commissioners; the lead PG&E representative was overheard saying to his lawyer, “We just lost.”
After eight hours of testimony and deliberation the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to not allow the tests to move forward. The tests would have cost PG&E ratepayers $64 million.
With PG&E stating that they would not make any changes no matter what the tests showed, it is clear we are just as safe and further ahead with 62 sea otters left alive and paddling.
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