Recap of California Energy Commission hearing 7-26-11

A personal story about my experience:

A personal story about my experience:

I had no idea what to expect at the California Energy Commission hearing regarding the future of nuclear power being held in Sacramento. Previous experiences at meetings on this topic had me on the defensive right from the start. Little did I know that I would be so welcomed by people who had no other purpose than to get down to the truth at this workshop. I listened with great satisfaction as state regulators grilled industry representatives with the kinds of questions I had always expected the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to ask, but they never do.

As I heard one report after another from reputable sources casting doubt upon nearly every aspect of nuclear power I’d frantically take notes, rewriting my own prepared statement throughout the proceedings using this newly acquired knowledge to better support my own arguments. Seismologists made statements confirming the likelihood of overwhelming earthquakes and tsunamis, calling for more studies to be done immediately, especially near SONGS. Nuclear engineers ripped holes in assumptions of an arrogant industry. For me it was like experiencing the moment in the Wizard of Oz when Toto pulled back the curtain to reveal the true nature of the Magnificent One. Much like the Wizard, Edison’s team seemed to fumble with convoluted explanations and wishful thinking, becoming smaller and smaller in stature as they insisted on things that were obviously no longer credible.

It was a long but satisfying day of testimony with only public comment remaining on the Agenda. By this time I was exhausted but inspired and ready with notes-a-plenty. The moment I had been sent there for by my supporters back at home was soon approaching. I listened intently to eloquent, knowledgeable, well prepared speakers come to the microphone before me. I was nervous but prepared and even a little anxious to have my turn. Then the most unexpected thing happened. Rochelle Becker of Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility gave her awe inspiring presentation. This is someone we work with closely and as she wrapped up her comments by showing a picture of a young boy in Japan being monitored for radiation, she explained her own emotional response to such a telling photo. I was feeling the gravity of her concern when she concluded her presentation by saying this is happening right now, all over Japan. She then showed the next picture and said “don’t let this happen here”. It was a photo I had given her previously for a campaign we had worked on together. It was of my own granddaughter standing next to an evacuation sign in a playground. I was caught off guard and it hit me hard.

It was too close to home and so easy to imagine, it was as if the tragedy had already struck. There stood my little Isabella, big as life, her innocent expression almost pleading with those in the room to prevent such a senseless tragedy from ever taking place. I found myself fighting back the tears confronted with the evidence I had been hearing all day long that this is where we are headed if we did not change course soon. I dreaded the sound of my name being called to speak, but sure enough my turn followed soon after. I fought with all my inner strength to control the emotional volcano erupting inside knowing it was hopeless. Taking a pass was not an option after all I had gone through to get there. I just had to give it my best shot. As I stepped to the podium, red eyed and quivering voice, I tried to explain why I was feeling so emotional and then I realized I was there for a purpose. Forget about the embarrassment. I had a job to do, and it certainly wasn’t the one I had been preparing for.

I took a deep breath and started to speak loudly replacing fear with anger and conviction, delivering the shortest but what must have been the most passionate speech of the day. Half shouting, half crying, it went something like this. “My name is Gary Headrick, here to represent San Clemente Green, a concerned group of about a thousand citizens living next to San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. I’m speaking for everyone from that little girl in the photo from the playground, who happens to be my granddaughter, Isabella, and for the 8.5 million people within our evacuation zone” I held up my notes and said, “I was going to add my voice to the many others addressing the many concerns we share, but I have a different message now. We know all that we need to know to see that we are headed for disaster. This is not about trying to fix a broken industry. It is about millions of people’s lives and livelihoods at stake here and it certainly is not about the money. It would be insanity to move forward with nuclear power in California, knowing what we already know. Please, no more studies, no more delays, we simply have to shut them down now!

With that, I quickly returned to my seat, which unfortunately was in the front row. Not being sure what to do next I simply held my ground trying get a grip on what had just transpired. I sat it out for what seemed to be the longest time but finally decided to take my leave between speakers and found a place to simply be alone with my thoughts. I gave my wife, Laurie, a call and she reassured me that it was all good, even if it was quite unexpected. I guess it was part of the public’s story that needed to be made real, not just expressed in theories or probabilities. Upon returning to the hearing room I was gratified to hear one of the commissioners final comments reminding the others that the basis of their recommendations will be primarily about people and not money.

I have a good feeling about the final conclusions these commissioners will come to, but it is far from certain and we still have an opportunity to influence their thinking. They will continue to gather public input until August 2nd, so I’m putting in my own written statement and asking you to do the same. It doesn’t have to be anything more than what you can come up with off the top of your head, or better yet, from the bottom of your heart. Just do it and know that you have done your part.

Open your email program, and copy the following address into it:
(Please Bcc so I can make use of your statements in other ways too)
In the subject line, copy: Comment for docket No. 11-IEP-1J
In the body: give it your heart and soul

Thank you
(see attached photo of Isabella)

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