Coastal Commission Rejects Use of Air Cannons in Underwater Seismic Testing

Byline: Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) — California coastal regulators have rejected a controversial proposal by a utility company to map earthquake faults near a nuclear power plant by firing air cannons offshore.

A unanimous vote to deny a permit came Nov. 14 after an hours-long public hearing attended by environmentalists, anglers and residents who were overwhelmingly opposed to the seismic testing.

Even the staff of the California Coastal Commission urged the panel to reject the plan, citing “significant and unavoidable impacts to marine resources.” It said more than 7,000 sea mammals — including fin whales, blue whales, humpback whales and harbor porpoises — would be affected by the ear-piercing noise produced by the air cannons.

Pacific Gas & Electric countered that the study, which would make 3-D maps of earthquake faults, is needed to understand the seismic hazards near the Diablo Canyon plant.

On the eve of the vote, PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said if the permit was denied, the utility would need to study the decision to plot its next move.

Charles Lester, the commission’s executive director, said seismic hazards around the seaside plant need to be better understood, but “the case hasn’t been made that this particular test is necessary in order to get those answers.”

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