Sad SONGS: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), that bosom-shaped power plant near Camp Pendleton, finished replacing its steam generators on Feb. 17, a major upgrade 10 years in the making.
“Our highest priority during this project was to protect the health and safety of the public,” Mike Wharton, project manager for SoutheCalifornia Edison, said in a press release. “Plant personnel and contractors achieved this goal by producing high quality work that resulted in no challenges to public safety.”
However, elsewhere at the facility, a storage tank broke and spilled more than 60 gallons of a solution containing hydrazine, a highly toxic chemical known by the Environmental Protection Agency to cause comas, seizures and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system even in brief contact. It can also eat through skin.
The spill is three times the size of the last hydrazine spill, which occurred in 2001 during what the San Diego Union-Tribune described as a “string of mishaps.” A SONGS spokesperson said no workers were injured and that the exact cause is under investigation. The spill was contained and did not reach groundwater.
The spill comes a little less than two months after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded an investigation started in 2008 amid safety concerns.
CEQA later: In other toxin news, Republican Assemblymember Diane Harkey has sent a letter to elected officials in San Diego County asking for support for a bill she says will end the battle over coastal fireworks.
CityBeat first reported Harkey's intention to exempt municipal fireworks displays from state Coastal Commission regulation at the beginning of the month. What's new is her claim that the bill, AB 206, will also exempt the fireworks from the California Environmental Quality Act, which is the basis for a lawsuit filed by the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation against La Jolla's Fourth of July fireworks. That language isn't in the bill yet, but Harkey's using patriotic and economic arguments to bolster it (a cheap way for Californians to celebrate the US of A).
CERF's legal counsel, Marco Gonzalez, says voters should be wary of the move, since it would essentially be a type of polluter's pork—it would set a precedent by which developers can simply apply to legislators for a pass on air-quality rules.
Stinking badges: Democratic Assemblymember Ben Hueso introduced a bill that would force petition circulators to display name tags identifying their employers. So far, political operatives are responding with quotes from The Treasure of Sierra Madre.
The bill follows criticism over misleading pitches by signature gatherers outside of retail stores working on San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio's unsuccessful managed-competition initiative last year and a certain “Jeff Smith” who lied about his name to the U-T while collecting signatures for a school-board measure.
Correction: The initial version of this story indicated that the SONGS spill was related to the steam generator retrofit. This was not the case and we apologize for the error. Here is the official statement from southern California Edison: