Seismic testing unanimously denied

Yesterday, the California Coastal Commission unanimously denied PG&E’s proposal to conduct seismic testing off of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. The Commission denied the project because the harm to the marine environment and ocean recreation was significant while only providing marginal benefits to estimating earthquake hazards.

Over 400 people turned out in opposition to the project of all ages and walks of life from environmental activists, fisherman, local business owners to surfers. There presence had a major impact on the decision. The public turnout was backed by great work by a coalition of leading coastal and ocean environmental groups that provided sound arguments for denial of the project. Special thanks to the Surfrider San Luis Obispo Chapter for their early leadership on this issue.

Read more here and here.



Talking Points and Hearing Guide

 Meeting Participation Guide

California Coastal Commission

Weds, Nov 14, 2012 – 9:00 AM

Time:   The meeting starts at 9:00 AM.  Attendance at any/all time from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm is extremely helpful.  We encourage you to arrive early if you plan to testify so you can fill out a speaker card.  If you don’t plan to speak, please come any time during the day.  PG&E will give their presentation sometime in the morning, and an organized presentation from environmentalists will be given after lunch–followed by public comment.

Place:   Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, East Wing.  1855 Main Street, Santa Monica CA, 90401

 Pre-meeting gathering:  Surfrider will be hosting a pancake breakfast for activists at 7am at Jinky’s Café at 1447 2nd Street. Santa Monica, CA 90401.

 Dress: T-shirts and materials to make signs will be provided.

Questions: For more info, visit ; Call Stefanie Sekich at 619-807-0551 (cell); or Paul Hobi at 831-239-9178 (cell)

 Directions: The Civic Auditorium is located at 1855 Main St. at Olympic Blvd, across from Santa Monica High School.  It is conveniently located just off the 10 freeway, in Santa Monica’s Civic Center. Take the 4th Street Exit and go South (turn left). Go to the third stop light at Pico Boulevard, and turn right. Then take the next right turn onto Main Street. The entrance to the Parking Lot is just north of Pico, on the right.

Check In:

When you arrive, locate our coordinators table outside of the civic auditorium to get a sign, T-shirt, or other materials, and to get updates on strategy and other information.  If you’re able to testify to the Commission, fill out a speaker card, and in the comments section write “I oppose seismic testing”.  Hand the card to a volunteer coordinator, or Coastal Commission Staff.  If you are part of a larger group, you will want to appoint one person that can speak for your whole group.  You may be limited to 1-2 minutes to speak; so be prepared to speak for a short amount of time.  If you don’t want to speak you can fill out a form letter or write your own that will be given to the Commissioners at the end of public comment.

Your attendance is valuable even if you decide you are not going to testify.  We will provide t-shirts, signs and other ways for your simple attendance to support the Coastal Commission denying the permit for seismic testing. We expect the Commission to vote on the project at the end of public comment and after they deliberate. Thank you for being on hand to support this historic conservation event!

Hearing Etiquette: 

  • When inside the hearing room, please whisper and be quite. 
  • Turn off cell phones.
  • When coming into hearing room, shut the door quietly.
  • You can hold up signs, but be mindful of people sitting behind you. 
  • Avoid making noises and clapping.

Speaking Before the Commission:

  • Fill out a comment card, and indicate that you are speaking on item 13b – write “I oppose seismic testing” on your card
  • When speaking say your name, your hometown, who you are, and any ocean related activities you enjoy (e.g. a parent/grandparent, recreational diver, surfer, etc).
  • Have a polite and positive tone–the Commission will be more receptive to your message.
  • Use a personal story or connection.  Public speeches are always more effective if you speak from your heart.
  • Tell the Commission why you oppose seismic testing, using very concise words– there will be a lot of people waiting to speak.  
  • Pick 2-3 points from below (use your own words):
    • Project can harm and/or kill thousands of marine mammals. Numerous studies demonstrate impacts from high energy sound pulses on marine life.  Impacts have been underestimated by PG&E who ASSUMES that most forms of marine life will move away from the sound and that the monitoring measures will eliminate harm.  Four endangered species: fin, blue, humpback, and sea otters are at risk, as is the very sensitive harbor porpoise.    
    • Project could harm ocean users who are present in water during testing.  PG&E admits that 154 decibels could harm ocean users, yet they are willing to expose people to 160 decibels, which is 4 times higher.  U.S. Navy says that 145 decibels is a safe threshold for humans.  Clearly ocean users are at risk. It will be almost impossible to keep people out of the water.
    • Project is severely flawed and unnecessary.  A former PG&E geologist and current USGS geologist conclude that the proposed testing will only marginally improvement what is already known. PG&E is not using existing geologic data to fully understand seismic hazards. New information is unlikely to change the worse case scenarios already being used to plan for geologic hazards.
  • Please avoid clapping after each speaker, even if you support what they are saying – it will help the meeting move more quickly
  • Avoid maligning PG&E or asking for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant to be shut down – we are asking the Coastal Commissioners to deny the permit for seismic testing.

For more specific information on the issue, go here.  


Threats to recreation and human health


The stretch of coast between Montana de Oro State Park through Morro Bay and up to Cayucos is rich with both biological and recreational resources. This is the stretch that will be impacted by the proposed Diablo Canyon seismic testing. Pretty much everything you can see in the photo above will be off limits during the 17 days of testing because the underwater sounds generated by the seismic airguns pose a hazard to human heath if you are in the water.

This map produced by the Coastal Commission  (above) shows the area that will be exposed to 160 db sound from underwater blasts (red dotted line). The blasts will go off every 11-20 seconds 24/7 during the survey period.  The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this project  concluded that any sound over 154 db is considered harmful for recreational divers and swimmers in the project area. The EIR notes that studies have shown that high levels of underwater noise can cause dizziness, hearing damage, or other sensitive organ damage to divers and swimmers, as well as indirect injury due to startle responses. More concerning is that the 160 db limit is just a best estimate. There is reason to believe that the sound could amplify (like ocean waves do) as it enters shallow water and increase in power.

While 160 db doesn’t seem a lot higher than 154 db, it is because decibels are logarithmic. So a 6 db difference equates to 4 times more powerful noise. Further, the Navy standard for exposure to underwater noise is 145 db. Exposure to 160 db is 30 times higher than the Navy standard. The Coastal Commission concludes, “Individuals engaged in water-oriented recreational activities in these areas during active survey operations may therefore be at an increased risk of injury” 


The Coastal Commission also concludes that PG&E has proposed inadequate plans to warn ocean users (surfers, swimmers, divers & snorkelers) about these hazards, provide updated sound propagation maps in the sound is more powerful, or any plans to mitigate for the lost recreational use. This is yet another important reason why this project should be stopped.

What can you do? 

1. Attend the Coastal Commission meeting on November 14th in Santa Monica. Info here.

2. Send an email to the Coastal Commission opposing this project here.





Coastal Commission report says PG&E seismic surveys would hurt marine mammals

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was scrambling Monday to salvage plans to conduct seismic surveys using sonic blasts off the coast near the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant after a state regulatory agency staff report concluded it would disturb more than 7,000 marine mammals.

Read LA Times article here:,0,504497.story

See Coastal Commission report here:  Application No. E-12-005 and CC-027-12 (Pacific Gas & Electric Co., San Luis Obispo Co. (109 page .pdf)

Please attend the Coastal Commission hearing on Wed. November 14th to ensure the Coastal Commissioners honor this report. Info on the meeting here.












County supervisors vote to oppose seismic tests at Diablo Canyon

After listening to more than four hours of impassioned pleas from local residents, county supervisors voted Tuesday to oppose a proposal to conduct high-energy seismic surveys offshore of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

The county board will outline its position in a letter to the California Coastal Commission, which will consider PG&E’s plans to conduct the earthquake fault surveys when it meets in Santa Monica starting Nov. 14.

It’s important to note that the County does not have jurisdiction over the project so it will be the California Coastal Commission who will be deciding on this project on November 14th. More info on the hearing here.

Seismic Testing on SLO Board of Supes’ Tuesday agenda

Citizens of the Central Coast will get a chance Tuesday afternoon to tell the Board of Supervisors how they feel about seismic testing off their shore. But the hearing, expected to be lengthy, is more than a gripe session. It could lead to the board asking the Coastal Commission to put the brakes on the project.



Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is seeking to conduct seismic testing off the Central Coast of California at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.  These tests require firing underwater air guns (each one producing an explosion measuring approximately 255 decibels), day and night, for days on end.

By PG&E’s own admission, these tests have the potential to harm or kill thousand marine mammals!

Moreover, these tests may also pose a significant risk to any surfers, swimmers or divers in the water.

According to researchers, including a scientist at the United States Geologic Survey (USGS), the data derived from this project is duplicative and may not answer key questions regarding plant safety.  PG&E has not made the case that these destructive tests are necessary to improve plant safety.


If you do not speak out now we will likely be unable to stop this project from taking place.  Not only will this project cause great harm to the Central Coast, it virtually guarantees a similar project to take place off San Onofre in the next few months.


When: Nov 14  (hearing starts at 9am,  Surfrider will be hosting a pancake breakfast for activists at 7am at Jinky’s Café:  1447 2nd Street  Santa Monica, CA 90401.)

Where: Santa Monica Civic Auditorium – East Wing 
1855 Main Street 
Santa Monica, CA 90401

If you cannot attend the hearing, please send a message to the Coastal Commission asking them to deny the project.

If you have questions, please contact Stefanie at:




Environmentalists oppose PG&E plans for undersea air blasts

 PG&E plans to use underwater ‘air cannons’ emitting 250-decibel blasts every 15 seconds for 12 straight days to map earthquake fault zones near Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.  Over objections of Central Coast residents and environmental groups, Pacific Gas & Electric plans to map earthquake fault zones near its Diablo Canyon nuclear plant by blasting high-decibel air cannons under the surface of the ocean.  Read full article here.




Seismic Tests for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Draw Surfrider and Fishermen Opposition

The San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation came out strongly against underwater seismic testing off the Central California coast, an industry reaction to Japan’s nuclear nightmare after a destructive earthquake.

But in a case of groups at times strongly at odds finding common ground (or water, actually), sportfishermen also oppose the tests to assess the susceptibility of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating Facility to seismic activity.  Read more here.