Yesterday the California Coastal Commission rejected a proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric to conduct high-energy seismic testing in the ocean surrounding the Diablo Canyon Power Plant near Morro Bay, CA, citing the unacceptable harm such testing would visit upon marine life. The proposal faced massive opposition from a wide coalition of conservation organizations like Oceana and commercial and recreational fishing interests concerned about impacts to fisheries and marine wildlife. This is an important precedent and one that the Department of the Interior should take seriously as it mulls whether to open an enormous expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida, to seismic airgun testing to search for oil and gas deposits.
As initially proposed by Pacific Gas and Electric, the surveys would have entailed blasting 250-decibel pulses of compressed air at the seafloor every fifteen seconds for 9 days. Before the ruling, Pacific Gas and Electric warned that scuba divers in the area could be in danger from the airgun blasts, to say nothing of the fish and marine mammals unfortunate enough to be caught near the testing area. Conservationists and fishermen were concerned that the proposal would damage marine life in the recently designated marine protected areas.
"The proposed tests posed an unacceptable threat to a wide suite of critically important marine life including endangered whales, not to mention untold damage throughout the ocean food chain" said Geoff Shester, Oceana California Program Director after the ruling. "The Commisson’s decision sends a strong signal that this type of seismic testing is simply incompatible with the protection of valuable marine resources."
But the rejected Diablo Canyon proposal pales in comparison to what is currently being planned in the Atlantic where, by the federal government’s own estimate, 138,500 whales and dolphins would be injured by seismic airgun testing for fossil fuels. The Atlantic plan has drawn the hackles of more than just environmentalists. The fishing community is rightfully concerned about the effect such testing would have on their $12 billion industry, having seen fish stocks vanish elsewhere seismic testing has taken place.
All of this just to prolong the dubious legacy of offshore drilling. As Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless wrote in a Politico op-ed, ramped up domestic production of fossil fuels will not lead to cheaper prices at the pump (gas prices are set on the global market).
California made the right decision. Let the Department of the Interior know you want them to make the right decision too. Add your photo to our facebook petition and spread the word.