California State Lands Commission refuses to move hearing on PG&E seismic testing to San Luis Obispo County


July 27, 2012


Contacts:   Gordon Hensley, San Luis Obispo CoastKeeper

(805) 781-9932

Andrew Christie, Santa Lucia Chapter, Sierra Club sierraclub@gmail.com

Jane Swanson, spokesperson, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, janeslo@me.com

Brad Snook, San Luis Obispo Chapter of Surfrider

(805) 440-9489

The California State Lands Commission has rejected requests by a County Supervisor and four San Luis Obispo County-based environmental groups to change the location of its final hearing on PG&E’s proposed offshore seismic survey project from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo.

The August 14 meeting will consider certification of the final Environmental Impact Report on the project, which proposes to use 260-decibel air guns to map coastal earthquake faults in the vicinity of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and is expected to have significant, unavoidable impacts on several species of marine mammals in coastal waters.

Supervisor Gibson’s office sent a request to the State Lands Commission in support of a request from the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, SLO CoastKeeper and the local chapters of the Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation to hold the meeting at a local venue.

Gibson’s message to the Commission said “We believe the growing public interest would be well served if the meeting were held close to where the most potentially affected individuals reside.”

In an e-mail sent to the four groups on Tuesday, State Lands Commission Executive Director Curtis Fossum denied the request, citing budget constraints. He wrote that the Commission has already heard the concerns of SLO County residents and the Commission has over a hundred items on its August 14 meeting agenda that “involve state property interests located throughout the state.” He noted that members of the public are free to come testify at the meeting.

“This is an issue of significant public interest in San Luis Obispo County. It is regrettable that Mr. Fossum does not seem to appreciate what attendance at that meeting involves for concerned fishermen, tourism-dependent businesspeople, and other local residents who would need to spend the better part of a day on travel to Sacramento and back, and possibly arrange for an overnight stay, in order to testify for a few minutes at a 9 a.m. meeting,” said Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Central Coast Regional Stakeholder Group member,  SLO CoastKeeper Gordon Hensley. “It’s unfortunate that the Commission believes our concerned residents should have to overcome that level of difficulty in order to be heard.”

“It appears that the State Lands Commission has low regard for the harm at stake for marine life and the economic interests of the fishing industry,” said Jane Swanson , spokesperson for the San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace. “There are less harmful technologies that can be used to gather the necessary seismic information.  And any meeting with over 100 items on its agenda would appear to be a rubber stamp session rather than a thoughtful  weighing of options.”

Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club, said “We have expressed concerns to the Commission that the project as proposed inflicts needless harm on marine wildlife in offshore areas that don’t need further study, and fails to collect data in terrestrial areas that do. The Commissioners should be facing the people whom their decision is going to directly affect when they finalize this project’s scope and design.”

Brad Snook, chair of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of Surfrider, said “In view of the financial, recreational, and environmental impacts predicted of this project on 500 square miles of ocean off the Central Coast, it is hard to believe Mr. Fossum thinks it’s okay to make this call from 300 miles away. We urge the Commission to reconsider its position.”

By way of contrast, in 2008 the California Coastal Commission ensured that a crucial hearing on whether a toll road would be built through San Onofre State Beach was held in nearby Del Mar. In 1997, the Coastal Commission made sure that the meeting that decided the fate of a proposal to develop the Hearst Ranch as a luxury golf resort was held in San Luis Obispo. Over 1,000 local residents turned out for the meeting, a factor which weighed heavily in the Commission’s decision.