Pacing through the Pines

Block the seismic study

Columnist has had it with PG&E's record of public service — or lack of it

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneNovember 2, 2012 

Most of us here on the ecologically splendid Cambria coast are by now familiar with the reckless, feckless, and foolhardy scheme put forward by that bullying corporate rascal, Pacific Gas & Electric.

To those just arriving from Siberia or from the Starship Enterprise: PG&E wishes to conduct “seismic testing” along the coastline, using extraordinarily powerful underwater sound guns (dragged by a research vessel over 530 square miles) that produce about 250 decibels every 13 seconds, 24 hours a day for about 12 days, give or take a few decibels and days.

Will there be damage and/or displacement to marine animals? Nah, there will only be a “temporary disturbance,” PG&E spokesman Blair Jones states with a straight face. The truth is, Jones minimizes the potential damage and spews the pithy company line, which is pure horse manure. Indeed, this project is lunacy, an outrageous threat to our environment.

The justification for this test is astonishingly dim-witted. The largest electrical company in California says this draconian undersea commotion will identify any “near-term actions for enhancing earthquake resistance,” according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a ship of fools so lax on radiation/reactor safety it would a laughingstock if its decisions weren’t so potentially catastrophic.

Two critical points: a) Incredibly, ratepayers will be picking up the tab for this $64 million misadventure that could kill (or render deaf, or displace and harass) myriad numbers of marine animals; and b) If the utility discovers new and dangerous fissures offshore, will it then shut the plant down to assure the safety of county citizens — or otherwise abandon its attempt to secure a license through 2040? That’s about as likely as Mitt Romney admitting he’s a charlatan blowhard and not fit to be president (which by any objective measure he is not fit).

If PG&E had been a good steward of the environment and of the people of California, this approach to nuclear safety might not be so vigorously challenged. But PG&E has not shown responsible corporate citizenship.

Let’s talk credibility. PG&E lost tons of credibility when it placed Proposition 16 on the ballot in June 2010. PG&E spent more than had ever been spent on a proposition ($46 million of ratepayers’ money) in a bullying effort to thwart efforts by California communities to create local electrical power sources.

Let’s talk arrogance. The Proposition 16 scam came exactly 10 years after PG&E was proved to be a despicable polluting liar by poisoning the groundwater in the San Bernardino County community of Hinkley for 40 years — with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium (think “Erin Brockovich”).

Incidentally, PG&E told concerned Hinkley residents (some were seriously ill with cancers caused by PG&E’S careless handling of toxic wastes) that “chromium in this form is a naturally occurring metal” and that there was “no risk at current levels.” Those lies and egregious corporate missteps cost PG&E $333 million, which was their settlement to 600 Hinkley plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, three months after PG&E lost Prop. 16 in 2010, a 30-inch diameter steel pipe carrying natural gas to the San Bruno Bay Area exploded in flames and killed eight people. The thunderous blast leveled 35 homes and hundreds of people in the neighborhood who survived the blast were left homeless.

Residents had reported smelling strong natural gas odors several days prior to the explosion, but when calls went in to PG&E to investigate, nothing was done.

An article in the San Jose Mercury News revealed that PG&E had in fact “punished workers for speaking up” about the dangerous condition of that very pipeline.

PG&E lied to the residents of Hinkley; PG&E was in denial about the danger to its gas pipeline in San Bruno; and PG&E’s Proposition 16 endeavor was an unforgivable and expensive scam, ripping off ratepayers to the tune of $46 million.

Given its arrogance and lack of credibility, why would any resident of Cambria accept PG&E’s assertion that their risky seismic testing will only temporarily “harass” about 2,830 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and other marine animals?

Ode to PG&E:

Liar, liar, pants on fire / your threats to wildlife could be dire…

Cambria must unite and resist / with intelligent protests and clenched fists…

Freelance journalist and Cambria resident John FitzRandolph’s monthly column is special to The Cambrian. Email him at john

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