Sunday, June 26, 2016

Arrogance Meets Arrogance: Devil’s Tango at Diablo Canyon

In a lead in to a miss-it-if-you-blink segment of last Wednesday’s Democracy Now broadcast devoted to developments re: Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, Juan Gonzalez announced that “California is going nuclear-free.”

Not so fast, Juan. Hold your horses. And hold on to your PR chops, Amy, before puffing up the sails of the utility in question, namely PG&E, one of the most corrupt corporations on the list, given its institutional track record.

How about asking the tough questions: who makes up this self-appointed “coalition of environmental and labor groups” anyway, the folks who just bought the Brooklyn Bridge from PG&E under a proposed agreement that allows it to delay closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant for another 9 years (or 3,264 days—whichever comes sooner)? And why at this particular time?

Snow job, but who’s snowing whom?

The Democracy Now team’s whiz-bang, thank you ma’am interviewee Wednesday morning was Damon Moglen, senior strategic adviser of Friends of the Earth, identified by Democracy Now as one of the group’s “lead negotiators.”

Friends of the Earth stepped in at the 11th hour, after activists, and investigators and lawyers had done all the background heavy lifting—some of it for years—that brought about the conditions for San Onofre, California’s other nuclear power plant, to be shut down. Which would seem to indicate that Friends of the Earth is on a tear to get a piece of the action just when the low hanging fruit is ripe for plucking.

Damon goes on to crow about how this is really a historic agreement (except it’s only a non-binding proposal). Indeed. What else would he say: that it was a sham, that none of ‘the parties’ included major stakeholders, and that their arrogance had allowed them to be richly bamboozled by an even more arrogant corporation that throughout its history has made every effort to disguise just how dirty it likes to play, and whose 2010 concern for the public’s safety resulted in a pipeline explosion that decimated a San Bruno neighborhood, destroyed 35 houses; injured 66 people, some critically, and killed another 8, including Jacqueline Grieg, who—ironies of ironies—happened to work for the California Public Utilities Commission, advocating for consumer rights in the area of natural gas regulations. 

(For More Fun Facts about PG&E, See the section below by Roger Herried, archivist for the Abalone Alliance since 1985. )

Or that their “proposal” just happened to mark an end run, announced as it was a mere five days before the California State Lands Commission (SLC) is to hold a hearing to determine whether a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review of Diablo Canyon’s nuclear power plant is warranted before PG&E can get its SLC lease renewed?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Who is the coalition of the willing that felt invited to dance the Devil’s Tango with PG&E? Besides Friends of the Earth, the “coalition” includes the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environment California, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and the Alliance For Nuclear Responsibility—six dwarves to PG&E’s Snow White.

What happened to the Seventh Dwarf? How about inviting the major stakeholders, for example: San Luis Obispo’s Mothers for Peace, who since 1973 when they became legally recognized interveners with the U.S. Nuclear Regulation Commission, have been speaking out and pressuring the powers that be (PTB)  to close Diablo Canyon, and who live in Diablo’s backyard, vulnerable to the plant’s periodic radiation releases, who enjoy the classic pattern of cancer clusters found in all populations living in close proximity to nuclear plants, and who will lose their homes, community and livelihoods if Diablo suffers a Fukushima scale event?

The probability of a Fukushima-scale event occurring happens to depend on 1) the ability of the plant to withstand a plus 6.2 Richter earthquake; and 2) a resulting tsunami. The odds are skewed by the fact that Diablo is home to the fifth most embrittled (ie. structurally compromised) reactor in the U.S. and by its location directly above the Pacific Ocean—and that it happens to sit on a web of connecting (and possibly resonating) earthquake faults, a fact PG&E knew as early as the 60s but kept carefully hidden from the public until only recently.

Now why in heaven was the Seventh Dwarf left out? Perhaps because as stakeholders, Mothers for Peace, and all the locals they happen to represent might have balked at waiting another 9 years or 3,264 days—whichever comes sooner (WECS) —before being permitted to exhale.

Eighth and ninth dwarves

The Chumash tribe on whose land Diablo happens to have been constructed is only an inconvenience and of no account.  Appropriation of Indian land represents just one of many chapters in the sordid annals of genocide mediated by the U.S. government/corporate complex that has determined Indian policy throughout American history. 

Originally the plant’s location was a pristine cove where the Chumash periodically dove for abalone. More recently, the Chumash attempted to form a Chumash Heritage National marine sanctuary where the reactor’s once through cooling waters have decimated marine life within a radius of 500 miles.  

But major stakeholders, marine life, along with Mothers for Peace, and the Chumash were somehow not included. The proponents now establishing the Salish Sea marine sanctuary have developed a bill of rights for cetacean non-humanpersons. It’s conceivable that, had all the authentic Diablo Canyon stakeholders, human and otherwise, been included, they might have voiced a certain reluctance to holding their breath for another 9 years, or 3,264 days (WECS)—or when a nuclear catastrophe wrecks a really fine day.

Because nature—and earthquakes—bat last.

What you can do:

Attend the live meeting of the State Land Commission in Sacramento June 28 at 10 AM. at the Holiday Inn Capital Plaza, 300 J Street just east of route 5 and north of the route 80 intersection. Come early to sign up to speak. Google for directions.

•If you are in the San Luis Obispo area, attend the June 28, 10 AM SLC meeting at the Morro Bay Community Center at 1001 Kennedy Way. Join the Mot hers for Peace in a rally at 9 AM. Bring your signs! Come early and sign up to speak.

Write the California Land Commission to order a complete environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before any new lease is considered in writing at

Sample letter:

Sirs and Mesdames:

I am writing to urge you to observe the law before any new lease for the continued operation of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is considered by ordering an Environmental Impact Report relating to the continued operation of Diablo Canyon nuclear plant which sits above a network of connecting earthquake faults. Diablo Canyon is home to the fifth most embrittled reactors in the United States. It runs at risk of a Fukushima-type disaster because it fronts the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of only 85 feet. Additionally its 2.4 billion gallons once-through cooling kills at least 1.8 billion (that’s billion) fish every year, according to PG&E’s own calculations.

Thank you very much for your careful attention.

 by Roger Herried - Abalone Alliance Archivist

One might wonder why the name Diablo Canyon? The answer was given to us lobster-skinned newbees a few years back by a Chumash speaker during public hearings that led to PG&E being stopped from doing some of the most destructive sonic testing for seismic analysis ever imagined. The story goes that the very first time the Spanish came to this sacred Chumash cove it was the home to the largest known oak trees anywhere, thousands of abalone - Yes! - just as the Spanish arrived at the site for the first time it was shaken by a strong quake as a portent - whence the Spanish name for the devil originates.   

Thanks to the intervention and wisdom of a few courageous citizens between 1958-63, PG&E had just failed to build its first four-unit nuclear complex at Bodega Bay, less than a thousand yards from the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake. 

The company couldn't be a greater example of Karma that ran over its own dogma when its original formation came a matter of weeks before the 1906 earthquake with the company's gas lines playing a major role in burning down much of San Francisco.  

Could it be that the secret cabal of wealthy Southern Pacific insiders who established PG&E, were dead set on destroying the new city charter which called for public ownership of all San Francisco's water, power, telephone, transit and electric services in order to set their corporate culture in place, and leading to the theft of California's commonwealth?

From PG&E's theft of San Francisco's publicly financed water system at Hetch Hetchy (1925) to the even greater theft of the federally financed Central Valley Project, which included both the massive Shasta and Friant dams (1945), Californians should have ample reason to mistrust a company that has no shame—that is provided that we could find an honest history book!

When confronted with five years of growing opposition to its Bodega Bay nuclear facility, it countered with its own "Tao Effect" claim that the bigger the building, the less likely it would stand a chance of being damaged by a major quake; PG&E even claimed that it could safely build the reactors in downtown San Francisco! 

In the late 70's, had activists not blocked PG&E's plan to build another multi-unit nuclear facility a short distance from the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Northern California could have once again have been a victim of PG&E's corporate culture. This company, with its dream of building over 60 nuclear facilities in its service area from Big Sur to Davenport, all represented the very worst that we ever would have grieved over - the loss of the state's gorgeous environmental beauty in the name of development at any cost.  

From beginning to end, Californians have been dealing with the mentality of Jack's beanstalk giant, PG&E's agenda of crushing anyone that dare get in its way.  In 1963, when it realized that a substantial portion of the Sierra Club had come to mistrust the company's agenda at Bodega Bay, it went to the club's board of directors including Ansel Adams and intentionally bribed the club into picking a new site for the company. PG&E intentionally purchased Nipomo Dunes, the most popular hiking spot in the region and threatened to build a nuclear complex there, unless the club came up with an acceptable alternative.  In a page right out of gangster land, PG&E borrowed Frank Sinatra's Leer jet (with Danny Kaye on board as entertainment) to fly the club's board over the Diablo site that the club's top executive's wife just so happened to have hand picked to replace the dunes.   Martin Litton, the only board member who knew anything about the environmental qualities of Diablo that qualified it as a candidate for a state park was away in Europe! To reward her for her efforts, she was elected to PG&E's board.

Last but not least, the club's decision included an order that no Sierra Club chapter would be allowed to use it's name to oppose Diablo Canyon. This would mean that the local chapter would have to create a new organization - the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference - to take on the chore of opposing the facility, which it did, until its lawyer was found dead the day after the Los Angeles Times announced the discovery of the Hosgri Fault.  

But the devil is in the details of how Diablo Canyon finally got the permission by the government to go ahead with construction.  PG&E would use the same geologists and consultants it had for Bodega Bay, of whom key members suggested that looking on or off shore for fault lines might scare the public. So no real studies were done. They didn't even bother to find out that in 1925 and 1927 there had been major earthquakes not too far to the south that destroyed a 700-foot-long dam as well as parts of the city of Santa Barbara!

Anybody remember the Watergate Scandal these days when Tricky Dick finally found punk Robert Bork to fire the sitting U.S. Attorney General and the Watergate prosecutor? The twenty-two years it took
finally to open the Diablo facility - with original construction costs ballooning from $350 million to over $5.4 billion with over $7 billion in financing, financing that PG&E could not have afforded. President  Reagan stepped into the breech with a secret $2.2 billion loan through the EPA -  and included its illegal licensing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) - with the help of Justice Robert Bork of Saturday Night Massacre Fame. In December of 1984 an NRC commissioner released the secret transcripts of how the agency failed to follow the law in licensing Diablo Canyon. The Mothers for Peace challenged the NRC's decision in court, but had no knowledge of its details until the transcripts were made public. To get the legal blessing for its operation, it fell upon the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to decide Diablo's fate.  Using his now infamous claim of not wanting to act as a judicial activist, Bork handed down a ruling that it would not be appropriate to look at the contents of the NRC's transcripts prior to letting the facility go online where it had failed to hold public hearings over evacutation planning. 

What better example of karma could happen to a luckier company than if a few weeks before the facility were to close, a 7.5 earthquake resulted in the loss of all of PG&E's gold, along with the dwarfs that enabled this horrible deal!  

1 comment:

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