by Susan R. Schrepfer
Originally published in California History magazine, Summer 1992, Volume LXXI, No. 2. Posted here with permission.
Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, San Luis Obispo County, California.
Photo: California Historical Society
Diablo Canyon is located on the coast of south-central California. With its quietly grazing cattle, it remained in the mid-1960s little changed from the days of the Spaniards. It opened onto a rugged stretch of undisturbed Pacific shoreline, its upper reaches insulated by the Santa Lucia Mountains against the spill of people and industry from the east. Not scenically unique, the canyon claimed attention for the very representative and undeveloped character of its marine, ocean shelf, canyon, and mountain ecologies. The coastal rocks, sculptured by the waves, were rich with sea lions, sea birds, and abalone. Along the canyon's ridges were silhouetted Monterey cypress and Bishop pine. Live oak dotted its grassy slopes and dry recesses. If the canyon's natural attributes did not warrant its fiery Spanish name, the controversy that carne to surround it did. The canyon attracted the interest of utility planners, who sought its cooling waters and isolation for a nuclear power plant. Other people objected. Ultimately, the plant was built after a twenty-year battle that had ramifications for the Sierra Club in particular and the environmental movement in general.
By the time plans for the plant became public in 1966, the San Francisco-based Sierra Club had grown from a small conservation group, established in 1892, into a significant force on the national scene. That year the publisher of Who's Who awarded a citation to what it called, "that doughty champion of conservation, the Sierra Club," and its executive director since 1952, David R. Brower, for his leadership in the campaign to halt construction of hydroelectric dams near the Grand Canyon. But if club leaders began 1966 absorbed in major conservation battles and passed through euphoria at their national acclaim, they closed the year fighting among themselves. Dissenters and defenders alike agreed that the club's decision to endorse construction of a nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon was central to their differences. William E. Siri, who favored endorsement, later recalled that the decision to do so, "started two years of intense controversy and ultimately led to the resignation of Dave Brower, not on that issue alone, but this was the start of it al1."(1) Brower, who opposed the plant, agreed: "The thing that did more harm than anything else was the Diablo Canyon controversy. I think that the problems that . . . led to my final separation were almost entirely the result of the controversy—the split that developed on the board and my clear identification with the side that did not want the reactors built at Diablo Canyon."(2)
Historians have generally agreed Diablo Canyon occasioned a schism in the club.(3) They have, however, seen it as a fight over "method," over the appropriateness of the club's condoning the Diablo plant to save Nipomo Dunes, a more outstanding and unique site.(4) To be sure, club leaders were increasingly questioning their tradition of cooperating with authorities, and accommodation, as a conservation strategy, was part of this debate. To interpret it as simply or even primarily one of strategies is, however, to miss the complexity and significance of the controversy.
With Diablo Canyon, the Sierra Club began to move from a traditional, wilderness conservation agenda toward a comprehensive environmental perspective. The group confronted complex new problems: what were the risks associated with nuclear power, should energy needs be projected and growth planned for, and was there not a need to save, not merely spectacular scenery, but open space and representative ecologies in general? The debate also came to involve an articulation of the relationship between the club's staff and board and the voice appropriate to its size and perspective. Was the cry of outraged conscience and principle to prevail, or was that impulse to be restrained by the need for credibility, cohesiveness, and respect for authority? The controversy was resolved in 1969 in favor of the latter, a decision made less surprising given the social unrest of the period. With the upheaval over Diablo Canyon as a major impetus, the dissenters left the club and established Friends of the Earth, which championed a more militant, evangelical form of environmentalism dedicated to informing by word and deed America's dialogue with nuclear technology and economic growth, a dialogue in which Diablo Canyon would continue to play a role. The club itself moved ahead as lobbyist and litigator in pursuit of well-formulated policies, but because proponents of the original decision to approve the Diablo plant had, when challenged, framed the discourse in the language of order and authority, the substantive issues raised by Diablo remained to be faced after 1969. As the club did so, what it shared with Friends of the Earth came to overshadow that which it did not.
The story of the Diablo Canyon plant began in 1963, when California's major public utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, reported that it planned to treble its generating capacity over the next decade to meet California's projected population growth and increased energy needs. The company estimated that two-thirds of that generating capacity had to be nuclear, requiring it to build reactors at seven to ten new sites throughout the state, in addition to existing nuclear facilities and those other utilities would construct. To obtain water to cool the reactors, most of the plants would have to be close to the ocean. The company had already received preliminary approval from the state Public Utilities Commission and the federal Atomic Energy Commission to build a plant at Bodega Bay, fifty miles north of San Francisco, but there were objections to the plan. David Pesonen, law student and part-time editor for the Sierra Club, led the opposition, producing a booklet criticizing both nuclear power and the site. He had the help of David Brower, who was also concerned about the general safety of nuclear power. The club's board of directors chose not to oppose the plant on the basis that nuclear power was unsafe but did strenuously oppose it on the grounds of the site's scenic value. Pesonen left the club. Forming his own organization, he took his case to the state Supreme Court. Although he lost, the utility withdrew its application for licensing late in 1964, after it was discovered the reactors would sit over the San Andreas Fault.(5)
Nipomo Dunes (n.d.), as photographed by Martin Litton, Sunset travel editor, photographer, Sierra Club board member, and "--- opponent of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant. The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant debate pitted conservationists who favored protection of Nipomo Dunes as a unique and beautiful California coastal site against those who favored protection of a more representative region, the Diablo Canyon area. Throughout the debate Martin Litton's photographs were important in educating environmental leaders who had never seen the places in question.
Photo: Sierra Club Pictorial Collections, Bancroft Library
At that point the company purchased 1,121 acres of Nipomo Dunes, fifteen miles of shoreline stretching from Point Sal north to Pismo Beach in southern California's San Luis Obispo County. Home to rare flora and fauna, the dunes were known for their beautiful and unique sand formations, created by wind and waves. Having been defeated at Bodega Bay, company officials decided to seek the cooperation of conservationists. They approached a newly established San Francisco group, Conservation Associates, organized by Dorothy Varian, whose husband Russell had founded the successful electronic firm Varian Associates and had loved the Nipomo Dunes area; George Collins, retired from the National Park Service; and Doris Leonard, wife of long-time Sierra Club leader Richard Leonard. The three were able negotiators who raised funds to buy lands for state parks. The associates were well disposed toward nuclear technology and wise development but wanted to save the dunes. They introduced top officials of Pacific Gas and Electric to William Siri, the newly elected president of the Sierra Club, a member of its board since 1956, and the leader of international climbing expeditions.(6)
Siri moved into the negotiations with confidence. A biophysicist studying nuclear radiation at the University of California's Lawrence Livermore Radiation Laboratory, he viewed nuclear energy as a vital and safe technology but deplored the use of the dunes for such a facility.(7) He felt talks with utility officials were warranted since the club had, in response to the interest of members living in the area, recommended that the state acquire the dunes as a park.(8) Not everyone agreed that the dunes should be kept in their natural state, however. Officials of San Luis Obispo, an economically depressed county dependent upon an inadequate agricultural base, had previously zoned the dunes for heavy industry. Railroad tracks and a highway, together with an oil refinery and coking plant, already outlined the dune's western edge. Most local residents also welcomed development in the untouched heart of the dunes.
Despite local support for the plant, company officials proved willing to talk with—as George Collins called his allies—the "friendly persuaders." "PG & E proceeded cautiously," Siri later recalled. "They had just been badly burned at Bodega Head, and so they were very much concerned about what the Sierra Club's position was going to be on this site." In mid-1965, Siri arranged to have Kathy Jackson, a club leader in San Luis Obispo County, take state resource agency officials to see the dunes.(9) The state Division of Beaches and Parks had years before identified the area as park caliber but had not recommended purchase because of the cost.(10) Persuaded by Conservation Associates, the Division of Beaches and Parks would later recommend acquisition.(11) Siri and the associates took the position that if the utility wanted to develop Nipomo Dunes it would have to move the facility back about a mile from the water. The setback would have meant putting conduits through the dunes to reach the water, the high cost of which discouraged the company. "Gradually, as we talked," Siri recalled, "the discussions took a different turn, the result, I guess of having said, 'We want the dunes preserved; go find another place.' They agreed that they would look for other sites, and said they would discuss them with us before making a decision on the selection." Collins agreed that they "took another hard look around. We were with them." Surveying the coast of San Luis Obispo County, the utility singled out ten sites, including Wild Cherry Canyon, that were large enough, accessible, remote, seismically safe, and near the ocean.(12)
By early 1965, rumors about the negotiations began to appear in the press, with hints the Sierra Club was going to agree to a compromise, either a setback at Nipomo or support for another site. Frederick Eissler—Santa Barbara teacher, new member of the Sierra Club's board of directors, and the head of its Santa Lucia group in San Luis Obispo County—wrote Siri that these strategies were unacceptable. He resented not being informed and feared club representatives were "helping to designate alternate sites for a nuclear power complex, an action which gives tacit approval to the use of nuclear power and compromises the Board's position." Referring to nuclear power he told Siri:
"I am personally concerned about health, safety and public welfare factors and a number of experts are, too, I would judge. I have reason to believe that many more people would feel the same way if they had access to insurance and low level radiation data and a host of other facts." He urged Siri to hold to a "good clean, clear conservation position; ... it would be unfortunate, and supererogatory for us to endorse the Wild Cherry Canyon site."(13)
In fact, the owner of Wild Cherry Canyon, a cattle and land company, did not want to sell but did offer another of its properties—Diablo Canyon. That canyon, an unzoned site in San Luis Obispo County, lay north of Nipomo Dunes, between Avila Beach and Point Buchen. Siri and Conservation Associates met with the chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric's board and its president, reaching in late spring a verbal agreement to the effect that the utility would open negotiations to acquire Diablo Canyon and free Nipomo to be purchased for park purposes, provided the Sierra Club would commit itself to the use of Diablo Canyon as a reactor site.(14)
All that remained was for the club's board to agree. At this point in its history, the club was in a strong position politically and financially. It was drawing national attention for its efforts to persuade Congress to establish national parks in both the California redwoods and Washington state's North Cascades region, as well as for its fight to block the construction of hydroelectric dams near the Grand Canyon. The club's income had grown steadily through the1960s, although its program had grown at an even faster rate, so that between 1953 and 1964 it had ended all but two years with small deficits and outstanding loans.(15) In 1965, however, its receipts had soared, and the club finished the year with a balanced budget. When the board of directors held its annual spring meeting in May 1966, Treasurer Lewis Clark announced the year's budget of $1.5 million looked "quite conservative." He anticipated that the receipts from dues and the sale of its books would cover the costs of its conservation efforts.(16)
Following the treasurer's report, President Siri offered his praise of the club's work. As proof of its effectiveness and healthy public image, he cited the "phenomenal growth in membership, and the approbation accorded the club by major newspapers across the country." Influenced by the beautifully illustrated Exhibit Format books it was producing and its defense of scenic lands, the membership had grown from 12,346 in 1958 to 38,060 in 1966, with most of the increase between mid-1965 and mid-1966. Indeed, that May applications were pouring in at the rate of about a thousand a month.
Siri declared, "the publishing program, in David Brower's hands, has been an outstanding success as well as an extraordinarily creative venture," with the books having "a singular influence on conservation, whether directed at a specific issues, such as the redwoods and Grand Canyon, or designed to engender a stronger feeling for wilderness, as in 'Gentle Wilderness'." Siri's praise surprised no one. The books had won critical acclaim, and the board had recently commended Brower for his conservation work.(17) Siri went on in his report to voice approval of club strategies, which he said ranged from use of "the most forceful methods at its command, including vigorous criticism" and "reasonable risks" when the stakes were high, as with the North Cascades, to compromises when justified. (18) If all appeared well that May, however, the group's equilibrium would soon be upset. In talking of compromise, Siri was alluding to his negotiations, not yet public, to save Nipomo Dunes by approving a nuclear plant in Diablo Canyon.
Although some of the directors were aware of the negotiations, the annual spring 1966 meeting was the first time the talks had been announced to the board. Siri and Kathy Jackson explained that Diablo was of no particular merit, a "treeless slot," an "isolated coastal canyon" where the plant "could be seen only from the sea." Siri added that the club had no policy on nuclear power per se and that officials of Pacific Gas and Electric had conferred with him at each step and had agreed to consult the club on future sitings. Arguing that this compromise was the only way in which Nipomo Dunes could be saved, he cited the club's tradition of helping to select alternative sites. (In the 1940s, for example, the club had agreed not to oppose a ski resort at Mineral King in the Sierra Nevada in an effort, in part, to save another site.) Eissler protested. A relative newcomer to the board, having been elected in 1963, he was somewhat of an outsider. He had for some time been communicating with those few individuals in the country who questioned the safety of atomic power plants and had come to share their concerns. Recommending Diablo was, he asserted, tantamount to approving a dangerous nuclear generator and ran counter to the club's 1964 request for a moratorium on the construction of plants pending a shoreline master plan. He asked the club to set a policy on nuclear power and argued it should have learned not to select alternative sites after having, as with the Sierra ski resort, come to regret several such endorsements. Brower's only response at the meeting was to plead for time, arguing the company had given the club until the end of May for an answer, allowing for an additional meeting.
Siri prevailed. The board passed—9 to 1, with two abstentions—the motion: "The Sierra Club reaffirms policy that the Nipomo (Oceano, Santa Maria) Dunes should be preserved, unimpaired, for scenic and recreational use under state management, and considers Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo County, a satisfactory alternative site to the Nipomo Dunes for construction of a PG&E generating facility; providing that (1) marine resources will not be adversely affected; (2) high-voltage transmission lines will not pass through Lopez Canyon... ; (3) air pollution and radiation will not exceed licensed limits." Eissler cast the no vote; Seattle activist Pauline Dyer and writer Paul Brooks abstained. All the long-time club leaders—Siri, Richard Leonard, Nathan and Lewis Oark, Charlotte Mauk, Dr. Edgar Wayburn, Jules Eichorn, and photographer Ansel Adams—had voted yes.(19)
The San Francisco Chronicle told its readers that Pacific Gas and Electric was "delighted."(20) Three days later, the company publicly announced the plant would be built in Diablo Canyon. Responding to the utility's policy of "cooperation," the state established a power plant siting committee comprised of representatives from the resource agencies that would need to approve the site.(21) By early fall 1966, all had done so.(22) "Cooperation" had served the corporation well, but would bedevil the club.
Photo: Courtesy Sierra Club Library, San Francisco
Not present at the May meeting were four directors, three of whom would later oppose the decision, including Martin Litton, travel editor for Sunset Magazine. Probably the only director who had seen Diablo Canyon, he was irate: "The issue was not what kind of a power plant would be built there. . . . It was that anything would be considered—allowed—to take over the last piece of remaining natural-looking California coast."It was, he claimed, "the representative area of the whole California coast from Marin to Mexico, with "the largest standing coast live oak [Quercus agrifolia] of record—123 feet and 129 feet. The Bishop pine—endemic to California—found its best representation in the San Luis Range. Diablo Canyon was as well, "the best preserved tidal zone in California," with "masses of abalone" and sea lions.(23) Litton fired off a letter to Pacific Gas and Electric's President S. L. Sibley calling the vote "fraudulently obtained." Countering strenuous objections from club director Ansel Adams, who felt a board member should not publicly voice private opinions after a decision had been made, Litton retorted: "the deliberate and successful attempt to mislead the Board of Directors into a hasty and unnecessary approval of the PG&E scheme by describing Diablo Canyon as 'a treeless slot' was quite clearly a deception."(24)
Eissler told the club's Los Padres Chapter that "the Board had been misled"and showed its members Litton's photographs of Diablo Canyon and Point Buchon. Both the chapter and the Santa Lucia Group asked the board to reevaluate the proposal and to withdraw approval of the site in the interim. They asked that in the future groups and chapters be consulted "before resolutions are passed by the Board of Directors on matters within their geographical area."Kathy Jackson said Litton's photographs of Diablo Canyon were "stunning" and "a complete revelation."(25) To Siri she confided that, although she had argued at the board of directors meeting that Diablo was "open and barren ... a gash, a slot .. . . typical of many up and down the coast," she had not actually been in the canyon, having only walked briefly along the coast at its mouth.(26) In late June, the press headlined local members' claim that they had not been "consulted by the national office in San Francisco."(27)
Siri countered that individuals within the Santa Lucia group had known about Diablo for months, that the canyon was typical of California's shorelines, and its selection was the only way to save Nipomo Dunes. He admitted he had not been in Diablo Canyon, but said he had flown over that part of the coast.(28)
When Eissler sent an article to Siri on contamination from nuclear reactors, asking that it be mailed to club members, Siri rejected the plan with the explanation that "few people in the Sierra Club have sufficient knowledge of the basic scientific principles and facts to read and evaluate such material intelligently." "How many people," he asked rhetorically, "do you suppose, know even the meaning of the terms used, such as piocuri or millirad, much less their physical significance. I realize," he told Eissler, "you can never be persuaded that the crusade is meaningless but you should at least know that for every page of inaccurate and distorted material from non-experts . . . I can produce a thousand pages by competent authorities that refute it or place it in unprejudiced context." He claimed that Eissler's source contained a "subtle but important deception," as the author emphasized "nuclear electrical power generating plants," but used only data from reactors in submarines and the plutonium plant at Hanford, Washington.(29) To no avail, Eissler requested "a thorough airing" within the membership of both sides of the "environmental contamination issue."(30)
When the club's board had decided to endorse the Diablo Canyon plant in May, long-time Executive Director David Brower, though he decried the loss of any scenic area, had had no first-hand knowledge of Diablo Canyon and no clear position on nuclear power plants. Following that meeting, however, Litton had shown him photos of the site, and Eissler had prodded by asking if he knew why they wanted to locate the plant in a remote place, and had he seen the evacuation plans? They convinced Brower that the vote had been "a gross mistake."(31) His position—only mildly evident in the earlier Bodega fight and when he had asked for more time at the May 1966 meeting on Diablo—was soon made clear when he issued a press release describing the meeting in terms that Siri argued were slanted toward Eissler's position.(32) By taking this position, Brower was placing himself in opposition not only to Siri, with whom he had worked for years, but also to Richard Leonard and Ansel Adams, both of whom had been among his closest friends since the 1930s.
Aerial photograph of the Diablo Canyon site, before construction began, probably taken sometime in the late 1960s. Photos such as these, many by Martin Litton, played an important role in acquainting people with the natural attributes of this remote place and raising opposition to the building of the nuclear plant.
Photo: Sierra Club Pictorial Collections, Bancroft Library
Pacific Gas and Electric officials let the press know in July of their annoyance at the "skirmish" within the club after the latter had helped to select Diablo. The canyon was ideal, the company maintained; it was remote, close to water, and in the southerly portion of the system. The executives told the press they did not want another "emotional campaign";a repeat of the Bodega "fiasco." (33) The Bodega "debacle" had cost $4 million, they said, and "stalled the company's nuclear plans at a time when a nuclear power plant could produce power much more cheaply than a fossil-fired station." This time, the company said, it had asked "responsible conservationist groups" to inspect sites so as to "reconcile any differences over what is the best use of a certain parcel of land."(34)
In the summer of 1966, the furor within the club appeared to diminish. The utility and the press emphasized the club's original endorsement.(35) Responding to media coverage of the discord and pressure from the board, even the Los Padres Chapter eventually rescinded its request that the board reconsider its decision. The chapter chairman assured the club's new president, George Marshall: "we, too, feel keenly the importance of resolving, within our walls, differing points of view and deplore the situation which allows what should be healthy internal discussion to escape and receive wide publicity as internal friction, devisiveness and indecision."(36)
In mid-1960s, momentum behind atomic power was building nationally. That summer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, previously wedded to coal-fired industries, announced it would "go atomic."(37) A group of four investor-owned utilities in the Middle Atlantic states confirmed plans for a $250-million atomic plant near Philadelphia.(38) In addition to reactors planned by other California companies for Malibu, Sacramento, and San Diego, and its own two already operable atomic plants, Pacific Gas and Electric now planned to cluster reactors at Montezuma Slough near Sacramento, South Moss Landing, Nipomo Dunes, and Point Arena.(39) The company argued that the new plants were necessary because it projected that the average home in its system, which used 4,454 kilowatts of electricity in 1965, would be using 7,200 kilowatts by 1975, with the number of people in its service area increasing from eight-and-a-half million in 1965 to over eleven-and-a-half by 1975.(40)
Summing up the common wisdom of the period, a small-town California newspaper in 1966 assured readers that "the whines of protest" from "some of the professional anti-private industry objectors" will be "of little avail against the march of the atom."(41)
Large stretches of California's beaches and coastline remained undeveloped open space. As the utility companies responded to projected needs of the state's surging population with plans for atomic plants near the ocean, others looked to the coast to supply the recreational needs of this same population. At the federal level the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission's report to President Lyndon Johnson had recently called for shoreline acquisitions before the opportunity disappeared. Scientists at the University of California, La Jolla, had completed a study two years earlier in which they advocated the state inventory its coastal resources, review development plans, and acquire park sites.(42) The Sierra Club's local chapters were interested in saving specific seashores, and in response to chapter interest the board had already recommended a moratorium on coastal developments. Nevertheless, open coastline remained for the club a lesser priority than the forested wildernesses of the North Cascades, the spectacular Grand Canyon, the ancient redwoods, or even the unique Nipomo Dunes.(43)
In September 1966 the club's board of directors met for the first time since the May meeting at which they had decided in favor of the Diablo plant. Many of the 135 people present—including Eissler, Litton, Dorothy Varian, Doris Leonard, and the chairman of the state's Resource Agency Power Plant Task Force—had come to discuss the Diablo decision. Surprisingly, Siri—now club treasurer—opened the meeting by proposing new management procedures designed to restrict Brower's fiscal control and extend that of the board and the president. During his fourteen years as executive director, Brower had exercised wide discretion in expending club funds and implementing policy. If not entirely satisfactory to the board, this discretion had never before been seriously challenged. Now the board passed, with little discussion, new procedures. One provided that "no contracts or agreements, written, oral or implied, could be made without the knowledge and consent of the President or his designee." As well, no expenditures over $500 were to be made without a signed purchase order from the controller or the president, and no expenditures over $2,000 were to be made on book or film projects until fully authorized by the board.(44) No reasons for the new controls were given. Expenditures had begun to outstrip receipts in late summer 1966 because of the Grand Canyon campaign, but the deficit in September remained small enough to be offset by the profits sustained earlier in the year.(45) Although the club's finances were reasonably sound, problems were beginning to develop between the board and Brower. The executive director's long habit of acting without full board approval had, in part because of his position on Diablo Canyon, become less tolerable. Concomitantly, the fight over Diablo Canyon, although it was led by various directors, would be increasingly defined as one involving a challenge to the authority of the board by staff. This was not entirely illogical, as Brower and some of the other staff people did support those directors who opposed the Diablo Canyon plant.
Tidepools at the mouth of Diablo Canyon, as photographed in the1960s by Martin Litton. Outraged when he was informed that the club was being called upon to approve the building of a nuclear generating plant on this site, dub director Litton proclaimed it to be "the last piece of remaining natural looking California coast," with "the best preserved tidal zone" in the state.
Photo: Courtesy Sierra Club Library, San Francisco
As soon as the board had adopted the new proedures, Eissler requested it set a policy on nuclear power and reconsider its approval of Diablo Canyon. The canyon was, he reiterated, an ecological unit that encompassed shoreline, coastal plain, and mountainous back country—the only "sizable portion of California coast south of Humboldt County" unmarred by highways, railroads, or structures. Its diverse environment included "record-sized coast live oaks, extensive stands of Bishop pine," and "rich flora and fauna, supporting . . . rookeries of pelagic birds and sea mammals." Brower placed the issue in a broadly anti-growth context, claiming additional power would promote industrialism, fuel population growth, and destroy the environment. Noting the state Resources Agency had endorsed, not only Diablo, but the Grand Canyon dams, he argued that their success in fighting those dams should teach club leaders they could act to limit "industrial growth in the state." Siri responded that the consumption of energy had for decades accurately followed projections of need and "nothing short of world-wide disaster could alter the growing power needs of the nation, nor the nation's determination to generate the power needed." Diablo Canyon, he argued, "consisted of heavily grazed grasslands on rolling hills devoid of trees except in the bottoms of gullies and canyons." Neither "unique nor comparable in scenic value to hundreds of miles of coast," it was "typical of thousands of square miles of California range lands." Pacific Gas and Electric had indicated it would sell Nipomo Dunes "if the plant is built at Diablo Canyon," he noted, and the Los Padres Chapter had rescinded its request that the board reconsider its decision.
Eissler and Brower lost the debate. The board recommended a moratorium on future plant sitings pending a survey of the coast, but specifically excluded Diablo Canyon. Director Jules Eichorn had changed his position after seeing the canyon, making the vote 9 to 2, and the new president, George Marshall, had abstained. Three days later, Pacific Gas and Electric announced it had taken a lease on 600 acres in Diablo Canyon and planned to have the plant operable in five years.(46)
Within the club, the issue had become, in Siri's words, a "running battle,"in which it was "almost impossible psychologically for people to shift their position. It presented a set of circumstances that are not too different from two nations going to war, each of them recognizing it's a stupid war that will gain them nothing but losses, and still not being able to stop it. . . . the Sierra Club did exactly the same thing; we had a civil war."(47) The intensity of the debate was justified, however, as new elements entered the conservation discourse. This was the first occasion on which the club had dealt directly with representatives of industrial America. Earlier struggles had involved public lands and government agencies with whom the club had had a long history of interaction and from whom it could legitimately claim accountability. Diablo Canyon was also the first occasion on which the club debated the benefits of and need to plan for industrial and demographic growth and only the second on which it confronted nuclear energy. As Ansel Adams explained, it was partly a question of "constructive cooperation between the forces of industry (and public service developments) and the forces of conservation," but it was also clear that, "the realities of our time ... the expansion of the material and cultural demands of our society,"could not be "neglected in our consideration of planning for a better environment."(48) There were those, however—notably Eissler, Litton, and Brower—who now envisioned a broadly anti-development, anti-nuclear policy.
The dissenters could hope to find allies among not only those who shared this vision, but those who were uncomfortable with the idea of private negotiations, the strategy of accommodation, or the loss of shoreline. For even these individuals, however, those factors were less important than was the need to respect the limits of the club's influence and the authority of its president and its directors. When the utility announced it had leased Diablo Canyon, Kathy Jackson gleefully labelled it a great day. But President George Marshall told her the statement "shocked" him. It was "a sad day," he said, "because it would have been a wonderful thing for the State of California to save the greater part of the Point Bouchon Peninsula running back to the crest of the San Luis Range as a great coastal and canyon and sealife park. Had I thought there was any reasonable chance to obtain this . . . I should have fought for it. "He added: "It is not the function of the Sierra Club or any of its representatives, to be apologists, public relations people, or anything of this kind for P.G. & E. or any other power company nor for nuclear power."(49) Others were also ambivalent but, like Marshall, unwilling to oppose the board's decision. Alex Hildebrand, an ex-director prominent in the club, felt it was an issue of "honor." While Diablo Canyon did not "seem like a bad choice" and power plants were necessary, for the most part his support of the board's position was premised upon his belief that, "it was inappropriate ... to go back on the agreement that had been made—whether it was right or wrong."(50) Michael McCloskey, the club's conservation director at that time, noted Siri had reached an agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric before the board had become involved, an unprecedented unilateral negotiation. "I never felt comfortable with the way that that was done behind closed doors," McCloskey commented. But even after going to look at the canyon and finding it a fine area, he concluded, "one should not second-guess one's leader when a commitment in good faith has been made. Whether he was well advised in making it is another matter." The Sierra Club, McCloskey pointed out, was not a "public utility commission.(51)
In response to a petition from those who now called themselves the "save-Diablo" group, the board held a special meeting in January 1967. Speaking for the dissenters, Brower claimed that new evidence made it possible to oppose the plant without considering it a policy reversal. When the original vote had been taken, he said, the plant was to be small and hidden in the canyon, but now he understood the company was planning five to eight reactors that would sit in full view on the coastal terrace, with highly visible switch yards and massive transmission lines. He argued that the strategy of selecting alternative sites was not wrong, but that it should only be done after a full and public presentation of alternatives, and this had not been the case with Diablo. He drew a parallel between his effort and John Muir's struggle early in the century to get a club majority to support his later unsuccessful fight against the dam ming of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. Litton, for his part, added that no new power plants need be built anywhere in California.
Directors Pauline Dyer and Eliot Porter now joined Eissler, Eichorn, and Litton in voting to revoke the board's original decision, but the balance of power still favored Leonard, Siri, Mauk, Adams, the Clarks, and Marshall. The board did, however, establish two committees to investigate the economic and ecological impact of a nuclear facility in Diablo Canyon. The petition presented by the dissenters asked that, should the board decide not to change its policy, the membership be consulted through a referendum, the first such in club history. The petition proposed offering the members two choices: (A) "I desire the Sierra Club to urge that the Diablo Canyon region remain unaltered pending the outcome of comprehensive shorelines master planning conducted during the club's proposed moratorium ... on the siting of power plants at coastal locations of scenic-recreational worth; (B) I favor the construction of power generating plants at the Diablo Canyon region . . . since the Sierra Club's proposed moratorium on coastal siting of power facilities pending the outcome of shorelines master planning should not apply to Diablo Canyon."(52) The fight was to be framed in the language of power plants, coastal development, and Diablo Canyon.
Siri charged that the wording was biased.(53) Eissler obtained from the Legal Committee an opinion that the board was permitted to change the words, but not the meaning, of a petition. The board rewrote the petition asking the members to vote yes or no to the following statement: "The Sierra Club reaffirms its policy that Nipomo (Oceano, Santa Maria) Dunes should be preserved, unimpaired, for scenic and recreational use under state management, and considers Diablo Canyon, San Luis Obispo County, a satisfactory alternative site to the Nipomo Dunes for the construction of the Pacific Gas & Electric Company generating facility, provided (1) marine resources not be adversely affected (2) high voltage wires will not pass through Lopez Canyon, and (3) air pollution and radiation will not exceed licensed limits." The referendum of club members on the Diablo Canyon issue would be held, but the petition now focused on Nipomo Dunes and a reaffirmation of board policy.(54)
The day after the meeting, Executive Director Brower issued a press release describing the board's endorsement of Diablo Canyon to be now provisional, because it had been made on the premise the plant would be hidden within the canyon and might be withdrawn following the April referendum.(55) Angered at a press release he said promoted the view of a "willful minority," Siri demanded club president George Marshall "order a stop to this activity."(56) In a letter written a week after the meeting, Marshall reprimanded Brower: "Once the Board has established policy, it is expected that Staff will follow that policy and that Staff will not carry on public campaigns in the press, in the Bulletin and among the membership, or take leadership in efforts to try to get the members to reverse the Board's established policy." Marshall noted that the first five or six names on the petition were staff members.(57) Brower angrily retorted in a letter to the board of directors that staff had prepared the release at the request of minority directors and protested what he called efforts to contravene members' right to petition and to restrict his freedom.(58)
The board resolved that both factions would present their views in the Sierra Club Bulletin, with Litton and Eissler framing the dissenting argument and Siri and Adams the other position. This seemingly civilized procedure quickly deteriorated. The board's submission deadline of January 25 arrived without Adams and Siri having returned their material. Siri said he was simply, "a wretchedly slow writer." The Bulletin's staff, admittedly sympathetic to the save-Diablo position, decided—three weeks after the January 25 deadline had passed—to mail to key leaders 750 copies of the anti-Diablo Canyon statement, a document that became known as the "half-Bulletin." Bulletin editor Hugh Nash told the board that with the balloting approaching, it was unfair to penalize the faction that had submitted its material in January, especially as many chapter newsletters were publishing articles defending the board's policy. In retrospect, however, both sides agreed that the one-sidedness of the"half-Bulletin" gave an impression of unfairness that angered many members.(59)
The board ordered the February 1967 issue of the Bulletin published with arguments from both sides. Large photographs of Nipomo Dunes by Ansel Adams graced the Siri-Adams statement, the essence of which was contained in a simple caption describing Diablo Canyon as "a contentious issue" that had grown "out of the moving sands and rare flora of Nipomo Dunes to sow doubt and dissension." The canyon was presented as a "long, treeless terrace of heavily grazed land" and the "sole alternative to a reactor at Nipomo Dunes." "Dissent" was, Siri wrote, "dissipating the club's energy"; supporting the board would "preserve the respect and integrity of the club." The Diablo plant was necessary, as "we are an energy-based society in which consumption of electricity doubled every decade," increasing at a rate about three-and-one-half times faster than population growth. In an introduction, President George Marshall also urged the members to uphold the board and emphasized that the club's council and seven chapters had passed resolutions supporting the board. The dissenters felt their small pictures of Diablo Canyon and single page of text suffered by comparison, but they were heartened when the economic and ecological committees gave their reports to the board.(60)
The biologists who constituted the ecological committee argued the choice of Diablo Canyon had demonstrated the failure of single-purpose planning and told the club it should have made saving representative ecologies of California a priority equal to saving the redwoods and the Grand Canyon. They enumerated the canyon's assets: it was one of only two remaining extensive shoreline areas in California of unique unmarred quality (the other being the Kings Range in Humboldt County); it had the richest marine complex south of Mendocino County; and it was the site of Diablo Creek, a rare free-flowing coastal stream. For them, the canyon's value lay in its combination of undersea, coastal shelf, mountain, and canyon ecologies "distinctly representative" of central California. They expressed concern about the impact of radioactive pollution and heated water discharges on the marine biota. The economic committee's report also encouraged the save-Diablo group. Although it accepted the premises that nuclear power was economically superior to other forms of energy and that coastal sites were more cost effective than inland sites, the committee did identify two economically and aesthetically acceptable alternatives to Diablo Canyon—Moss Landing and Morro Bay—both of which already had conventional power stations. Siri suggested, and the board agreed, that it would be inappropriate to act on the reports prior to the referendum. (61)
The dissenters countered with a last-minute bid to broadcast the reports. If the club's sixteen California chapters favored upholding the board, the save-Diablo group had the support of the two eastern chapters—the Atlantic in New York and the Great Lakes (the Rio Grande and Pacific Northwest chapters remained neutral).(62) A committee, hastily formed in Yonkers, printed a brochure quoting extensively from the ecological committee's report, with its conclusion that "it cannot be stressed too strongly that this entire area is one of the very few magnificent ... untouched spots on the Pacific Coast." Large photographs of the canyon illustrated the points made by the biologists. The mailing reached the members after the ballots had been received, however, and may not have affected the vote.(63)
Such was not true of the press, which gave full coverage in early 1967 to this first publicly fought internal battle in club history, influencing the discourse and perhaps in part the outcome. News media accounts strongly favored the pro-Diablo Canyon plant side. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted those who condemned the dissenters, but the newspaper also interviewed Brower and carried an editorial indicating the controversy proved the need for comprehensive regional planning.(64)
The Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Examiner emphasized the dissension and the dismay of utility authorities.(65) For the state's small-town newspapers, particularly in San Luis Obispo County, no less was at stake than respect for duly constituted authority and the future of nuclear power itself. In the press, company officials defended nuclear energy against the "scare tactics" of "dissidents" and drew a clear distinction between nuclear energy and atomic bombs, purportedly calling the fuel used in their plants "utterly different from that associated with atomic weapons" and claiming further that there was "no atomic waste from their reactors."(66)
In the eyes of the news media, the club's "internal problems" represented a contest between authority and a "loud minority" that disapproved of every thing companies did and was throwing a "monkey wrench" into development. Club members were called upon to "save the reputation"of their organization from "dissenters" and "fringe lunatics." The battle was over "control of the club itself, "with Ansel Adams quoted as saying there was "a concerted effort to bypass the duly elected constituted authority of the club."One paper argued that if the agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric were "repudiated, the great Sierra Club" would "earn a public listing and partnership with those rude and mocking public pressure groups favoring general disturbance over thoughtful compromise and wise settlement of public issues."(67) Reinforcing themes sage in the press, the club's council, which included representatives from each of the chapters, recommended the membership reaffirm "the integrity of the club" by upholding the Diablo decision. The council explained the issue was not the canyon but, "control of the club by the board of directors and the council itself."(68)
When on April 5, 1967, the referendum was held, 11,341 members voted to support the board majority, and only 5,225 favored the petition. (69) The outcome probably represented less a collective opinion on either nuclear power or the plant site than it did a determination by the membership to protect organizational integrity and credibility. In the controversy and its outcome were heard an echo of larger patterns of strife in American society, with urban rioters and antiwar protesters challenging duly constituted authorities, to the dismay of many in the professional middle and upper-middle classes from which the club drew most of its members.
Encouraged by such strong vote of the member ship, ten still-influential, former club leaders demanded immediately after the referendum that the board remove Brower from control over the Bulletin, news media, policy, and funds, in order to "restore to the board full control of the club's affairs." They accused Brower of "irresponsible and uncompromising leadership," calling the break "long-standing, deep, irreconcilable." He had "campaigned against policy established by the Board" and refused to "abide by majority rule." His removal was necessary, according to Brower's critics, to "reestablish confidence in the integrity and wise counsel of the club's leadership."(70)
When what the press dubbed the attempt to "dump Dave Brower" became publicly known, the board was deluged by letters of protest from across the country. In the previous election two supporters of Brower had joined Eissler and Litton on the board—Patrick Goldsworthy of the University of California and John Oakes of the New York Times. At such a show of support for the executive director, over the objections of Leonard, Adams, and Siri, the board reaffirmed its confidence in Brower.(71)
By the time the spring 1967 referendum was held, the question of Diablo Canyon had resolved itself into a major schism within the club. If it represented the occasion for the initial split and defined the two sides, it was no longer the only issue dividing them. Added to the Diablo Canyon controversy were increasing questions of Brower's administration of the club, its financial losses, the high cost of his publications program, and his tendency to act without full board approval.(72) The organization's management problems and Brower's position on Diablo came together as issues of insubordination—his purported disregard of the board's right to govern.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas and Electric had applied to the state Public Utilities Commission and Atomic Energy Commission for permits to build in Diablo Canyon a $188.4-million plant to produce one million kilowatts of power.(73) Hearings before the Public Utilities Commission continued through the following year. The Sierra Club did not testify, but the Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference did. The conference was a non-profit corporation Fred Eissler formed in 1967, to protect "the ecological integrity and esthetic quality of the shoreline, upland, and offshore environment. . . . to promote comprehensive planning and . . . research on control of technological waste and pollution."(74) "Waging," Eissler said, "a Sierra Club battle for the club," the conference was one of the nation's first antinuclear intervenors. Its lawyers testified before the Public Utilities Commission that radioactivity and thermal waste from the plant would adversely affect marine life and that nuclear power was unsafe, offering evidence that it was not possible to assure the integrity of the containment shield if a meltdown of the plant's core were to occur.(75)
The commission did not find the evidence convincing, however, and approved the utility's application in November 1967. The press quoted a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman as lauding the decision as a victory for its policy of "cooperation."(76) Undaunted, Eissler filed an appeal with the Public Utilities Commission.(77)
The save-Diablo group was similarly determined to prevail within the club, campaigning as the "A-B-C" slate—or"Aggressive, Brower-type Conservationists"—for seats on the board in April 1968. The election of their four candidates gave them a majority. When Litton made a motion to change the policy on Diablo Canyon at the next meeting, however, it was ruled out of order, since it was not on the agenda. Feeling his action was justified because dissenters now held a board majority and alarmed that the bulldozers were poised to flatten a bed for the Diablo reactors, Litton that June mailed a letter signed by eight of the directors to the president of Pacific Gas and Electric proposing the company stop the bulldozers, investigate "alternative sites," and reappraise "the deleterious effect of continuing development . . . upon the California environment."(78) That September, the board passed a resolution acknowledging it had made, "a mistake of principle and policy in attempting to bargain away an area of unique scenic beauty, in its prior resolutions in regard to Diablo Canyon and environs." But the extent to which this latest resolution changed club policy was subject to differing interpretations; confusion reigned within the organization and an ambiguous message was conveyed to the utility.(79)
The board met again in December 1968 to continue debating the issue. The meeting was marred by angry exchanges, people interrupting one another, and much gavel-pounding. Litton pleaded for Diablo Canyon as central to the "ecological unit" of the San Luis Range. It was, he said, "the last remaining part of the California coast where the coyote roams free, the bobcat is seen almost any morning," sea otters and the abalone are "so thick they grow on top of each other," and there flourish the "commercial abalone fishermen almost extinct everywhere else on our coast." Adams argued that it was necessary to plan for inevitable social forces; the pressure of new populations and new technologies demanded a new approach to conservation. The debate centered on new questions raised by Eissler about the impact of thermal pollution on marine life, a complex statistical problem that involved calculations of current and wave action. Siri maintained the impact would be minimal, with a rise half of the time of only ten degrees in the surface temperature extending to a depth of ten to fifteen feet. Director L. I. Moss, a nuclear engineer, countered that the statistically less significant thermal situations were far more crucial in determining the impact on marine life than was the average change in temperature. Richard Leonard responded that the Public Utility Commission had dismissed the issue after giving it careful consideration and had provided for remedial action in its contract with Pacific Gas and Electric. Moss pointed out that the contract contained an "escape clause" relieving the company of the obligation to make design changes that would affect the efficiency of the plant's operation or the cost of producing power.
In the end, the directors resolved that "the Sierra Club opposes the construction of any proposed and/or projected electric power plant ... at or near Diablo Canyon . . . and will take all lawful means to save, conserve, and restore the integrity of the San Luis Range." In revoking its earlier approval of the project, the board also moved to ask the membership to endorse the new position.
Director Phillip Berry explained that he could vote for the change in policy "with a clear conscience . . . . because I think the principles involved in the original resolutions ... were wrong," but as a lawyer he sought the legitimacy of membership support. Proponents of the original decision were irate. They had continued their efforts, which would eventually succeed, to have Nipomo Dunes acquired by the state as a park. Leonard told the San Francisco Chronicle that Pacific Gas and Electric did not deserve to be "double-crossed."The San Francisco Examiner criticized the "Inconsistent Club" in an editorial that would be incorporated into the campaign literature of the "Concerned Members for Conservation," organized to defend the board's original decision.(80)
That October Ansel Adams, Richard Leonard, and Richard Sill had charged Brower with being unwilling to "accept a position subordinate to the legally and duly constituted authority of the Sierra Club," guilty of "financial irresponsibility," and carrying out acts of "insubordination,"one of which was his attack on the Diablo Canyon plant. Brower and his allies had denied the charges. By winter of 1968-1969 relations within the club had come to an impasse, rendered increasingly precarious by the organization's budgetary deficit. Brower, who had for years denounced "the organization man," was unwilling to back down from what he and his allies regarded as a contest between the organizational imperative and matters of principle."(81) The situation came to a head in the board elections for 1969.
Taking a temporary leave of absence, Brower ran for a seat on the board of directors with the "A-B-C" slate against the "Concerned Members for Conservation," who maintained they were campaigning "to save the SIERRA CLUB." Although several of Brower's acts of insubordination—including running an expensive advertisement in the New York Times showing a satellite view of the world entitled "Earth National Park"—were targeted by his critics, the Diablo Canyon issue featured prominently in the campaigns of both sides.(82) Brower and his slate were defeated three to one, as was the motion to oppose the Diablo plant. The membership, which had supported the militant "A-B-C" directors the year before, had been angered by the new board's reversal of the club's policy on Diablo. If Brower's slate saw itself as "a new breed of conservationists," others, like writer and professor Wallace Stegner, told readers of the Palo Alto Times the defeated directors "were simply uninformed conservationists, a long way from the engine room." The issue was, he explained, "that the club keep its pledged word, that it remain solvent, and that its policies . . . be decided by the full board."(83)
The extent to which the Diablo Canyon controversy began as a philosophical and tactical disagreement within the Sierra Club family, pitting long-time friends and associates against one another, is suggested by this photograph of the club board of directors in May 1963, several years before the conflict erupted. In the photo are a number of leaders who would later become involved in the Diablo Canyon debate, including: George Marshall (back row, left), a director from 1959 to 1968; Ansel Adams (back row, third from left, 1934 to 1971); William Siri (back row, fifth from left, 1956 to 1974); Alex Hildebrand (back row, sixth from left, 1948 to 1957 and 1963 to 1966);Fred Eissler (back row, right,1963 to1969);and Richard Leonard (front row, fifth from left, 1938 to 1973). At the time of the photograph, David Brower, the club's first executive director, had held the position since 1952.
Photo: Courtesy Sierra Club Library, San Francisco
In early May 1969 the directors met again for the first time since the election. Brower came to tender his resignation, as he said he would should he lose. Standing before the board, he delivered his last speech as a club employee. He spoke of his thirty-five years with the organization, seventeen as its executive director. He noted that the famous Wawona, or drive-through Sequoia, its heart cut out, had recently toppled and that the San Francisco Chronicle had commemorated the event with a photograph of the tree taken decades earlier by Ansel Adams. Brower was in that picture. If somewhat melodramatic, the analogy of the tree's fall and his own and the irony of the role played by Adams, an old friend, captured the poignancy of the event. The club's internal struggle had divided Brower and his oldest friends and allies—Leonard, Adams, and Siri. It had also rent asunder what Siri called the "two giants" of conservation—the Sierra Club and David Brower. The lines were firmly drawn, however. Brower, unrepentent, finished his speech by urging conservationists to fight against "smugness," "rapacity," "undisciplined technology," and the nation's "addiction to growth." He announced plans to form a new organization dedicated to restoring and preserving the whole earth as "one ecosphere." Tightlipped, Leonard moved to accept the resignation, and Siri seconded the motion, which passed. Brower left the room.
The meeting turned to regular business. The president chronicled club successes for the year: defeat of the Grand Canyon dams, establishment of the Redwood and North Cascades national parks, the production of six Exhibit Format books, and a fifty-four percent increase in membership. Michael McCloskey, who would replace Brower as executive director, delivered the Conservation Department's report. He noted that the club's conservation priorities—the Grand Canyon, redwoods, North Cascades, completion of the wilderness and national park systems, and Alaska—were dated and did not address "newer concerns in the environmental crisis." The report recommended the board add new priorities, including coastal and estuary problems and environmental survival. The latter would encompass issues of open space, water quality, power developments, and radioactivity. Diablo Canyon had already left its mark on the club.(84)
It had also changed Brower's thinking. By the time he left, Brower was becoming convinced "that atomic power ... [required] an unattainable perfection of engineering and operation as well as freedom from sabotage, terrorism, war (and freedom also from Acts of God)." If, as he maintained, he had come to this conclusion as a result of Diablo Canyon and it was Eissler who had persuaded him, it is equally true that his position had evolved from an earlier distrust of nuclear testing and warfare. In the late 1950s he had told audiences one needed only to look at one's children taking cover under their desks to recognize the fatal flaw in cold war politics. His antagonism toward nuclear power also flowed from his opposition, articulated in the 1950s, to demographic and economic growth. He was an early proponent of the limits to growth, one of the most crucial and divisive questions environmentalists faced in the 1960s.(85)
Brower did admit, however, that he had once been "guilty of compromise.""Let's build reactors instead of Echo Park dam," he had recommended. He and others in the club had believed that nuclear power could save Dinosaur or Grand Canyon from hydroelectric development. Brower liked to confess his conversion experience: "I was pro-reactor for twenty-three years before I became a born-again anti-nuclearist."(86) Diablo Canyon did not involve primarily opposition to strategies of compromise. Brower himself asked the board to go back to Pacific Gas and Electric and seek an alternative to nuclear power and Diablo Canyon; the issues were nuclear power, economic growth, and coastal planning. His analogy to a religious experience aptly conveyed the fervor and moral basis of his antinuclear stance.
After Brower had resigned, he and some of his allies from the club established Friends of the Earth, or FoE, with headquarters in San Francisco. Its program accorded a central place to opposition to economic growth. FoE also quickly became a leader in the international antinuclear effort, sponsoring a meeting in France in 1971 that called for a moratorium on nuclear power and the shutting down of all reactors "until the environmental and genetic safety of their operation can be proved and until a safe method is found for keeping high-level radioactive waste separated from the environment for the period (up to approximately 1,000 years) during which this separation is essential for the safety of life on earth."(87)
Meanwhile, although not indifferent to issues of nuclear safety, the Sierra Club held to its earlier reluctance to oppose nuclear technology. As late as 1972, the directors voted on two occasions not to oppose nuclear power.(88) That year, Brower, present at a board meeting as a club member and the leader of FoE, urged the board to confront California's "insatiable demand for energy and to endorse Proposition 9, the Clean Environment Act Initiative, requiring a five-year moratorium on nuclear plants. He cited evidence of the inadequacy of reactor safety systems, especially the emergency core cooling systems, and condemned the immorality of creating waste that would endure half a million years. Litton, still on the board, agreed; Leonard and Siri did not. The directors voted to take "no position on Proposition 9," which failed to pass. In 1972, the club also resolved not to oppose research on the liquid metal fast breeder reactor, provided safety and environmental impacts were considered.(89)
Construction under full steam at the Diablo Canyon nuclear generating plant.
Photograph by Martin Litton. Courtesy Sierra Club Library, San Francisco
The club's policies on nuclear power through 1973 continued to be shaped in large part by Siri, by then a professional analyst of the environmental and economic consequences of energy options. Siri viewed nuclear power as a threat that was real and demanded attention yet was not unlike any other natural or man-made threat to human safety, such as a ruptured dam or an earthquake. It was calculable, justifiable, containable, and acceptable. It was, he conceded, "possible for a nuclear reactor to melt down and to release a large quantity of radioactivity; it is possible for plutonium to be diverted and misused; and it is possible that there will be escape of some high level radioactive waste. I am convinced all these things are going to happen sometime, someplace, in the next twenty-five years as more and more countries have reactors. I think we will survive it very well.""The nuclear power issue would," he said, "always be a troublesome one . . . until people become accustomed to the idea. And then someday when the nuclear power plant melts down, it will be treated pretty much like the failure of the Teton River dam—'My isn't that terrible!—and then switch the TV to the baseball game."(90)
Despite Siri's influence, however, the club would soon change its position on nuclear power. In 1972 and 1973 the Atomic Energy Commission held hearings on the safety of nuclear energy. Among those voicing concern was a coalition of sixty environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and FoE, which received technical expertise from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Harvard/MIT group. The coalition and other critics targeted the emergency core cooling system (ECCS), as the weakest of the safety features built into nuclear plants. In case of a sudden loss of coolant in the reactor through some incident such as the rupture of a water pipe, the ECCS was intended to flood the core with water that would immediately cool the fuel rods and prevent overheating and the release of radioactive materials from the reactor. The hearings revealed that the commission's public assurances about the system were based upon computer models that had never been tested in an operating plant. According to the Sierra Club's Bulletin, the hearings shattered "the self-assured complacency with which the AEC had traditionally conducted its business.... The danger is of awesome magnitude: if the ECCS does not work, a loss-of-coolant accident could cause death and injury from radioactive poisoning as far as 100 miles from the reactor site." There were, the article's author cautioned, other nuclear risks "we take in our insatiable quest for power."(91)
As if to punctuate the hearings, in November 1973 the front page of the Los Angeles Times announced: "Fault 2 Miles from A-Plant Discovered."(92) The U.S. Geological Survey had located a fissure offshore from the reactors under construction in Diablo Canyon. According to the Times, "the designers of the complex had been under the impression that the closest major fault was twenty miles away." This one was ten times closer. Pacific Gas and Electric had purportedly relied upon the Geological Survey for information as to the seismic nature of the offshore area and had itself "not done anything specifically" on the question. The Atomic Energy Commission had itself only recently released new seismic criteria for nuclear plants, requiring determination of whether workmen would be capable of shutting a plant down safely in an earthquake. The capability of a fault to cause potential danger was to be based upon calculations of the fault's length, distance from the plant, and evidence of past activity. A fault was deemed capable, Times readers learned, if it was less than 20 miles from the site and at least one mile long. What became known as the Hosgri Fault was estimated to be two-and-one-half miles from the Diablo Canyon plant, as much as 400 miles long, and potentially connected with three other faults. It was judged capable of causing a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, with a peak ground movement of 1.15g. Diablo's reactors had been built to withstand a 6.75 magnitude earthquake—ten times weaker than a 7.5—with ground acceleration of .4g. A Pacific Gas and Electric official was quoted saying:"You're not going to get me to say we are alarmed." With $650 million invested, the first reactor unit was 75 percent complete and the second, 35 percent.(93) Discovery of Hosgri Fault, in the winter of the nation's "energy crisis," necessitated engineering modifications of the plant and delayed licensing, but did not stop the project.
A section of the offshore Hosgri Fault Zone appears as a series of dark broken lines at the left on this portion of the Fault Map of California.
Courtesy California Division of Mines and Geology. Reproduction by Instructional Media Center, CSU, Hayward
It did invigorate antinuclear efforts. In its publication, Not Man Apart, Friends of the Earth charged that ninety miles of the fault had been mapped as early as 1969 by two oil geologists and their findings published in a Department of the Interior study on oil deposits in 1971. FoE claimed that the U. S. Geological Survey had known of the fault that year, as had the Atomic Energy Commission, and the head geologist for Pacific Gas and Electric. FoE accused Pacific Gas and Electric of culling its files of materials that might prove embarrassing. Eissler, who was no longer on the club's board but was still fighting the Diablo plant, claimed he had admonished company officials to look for offshore faults but that they had deliberately avoided acquiring such information.(94)
Responding to the discovery of the new fault and the commission's hearings, the Sierra Club's board voted in early 1974 to oppose nuclear power.(95)
The change of policy was specifically occasioned by a report of the club's Energy Policy Committee, on which Siri served. Arguing all forms of energy harm the environment, the report recommended against support for a moratorium on nuclear power. In the ensuing debate, Brower voiced strong sup port for such a moratorium, calling the issue "a moral one; that the ability of our social and political systems to handle nuclear power is questionable. The board decided to oppose "the licensing, construction, and operation of new nuclear reactors utilizing the fission process, pending development of adequate national and global policies to resolve problems resulting from energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth," as well as to resolve safety problems in reactor operations, waste disposal, and "possible diversion of nuclear materials capable of use in weapons manufacture."The club did not recommend, however, that plants already under construction or operable be closed.(96)
That year the Wilderness Society also voiced its opposition to building additional nuclear plants.
In June 1976, "Californians for Nuclear Safeguards" marched in San Francisco in support of Proposition 15, a nuclear safeguards initiative that called for more reliable methods of nuclear waste storage, evacuation plans in the event of nuclear disaster, and economic compensation for victims of contamination, among other items. The demonstration, predominantlyby women and children, coincided with a national utilities conference held in the city.
Photo: Jim Burch
In 1975 a number of citizen groups in California, including the Sierra Club's Regional Conservation Committees, began gathering voter signatures to place the Nuclear Safeguards Initiative on the June 1976 ballot. Known as Proposition 15, it would have removed federal limits on compensation by utilities to victims of nuclear power accidents and would have required the state legislature to certify by a two-thirds vote the adequacy of plant safety and waste disposal methods. Otherwise, no additional plants could be licensed, operable plants would be phased out, and new construction halted. In February 1976, the club's board urged voters to pass the initiative. In campaigning for Proposition 15, the club emphasized that the Hosgri Fault had not been recognized until the Diablo reactors had been constructed and that the plant might not withstand an earthquake. Proponents, who viewed Proposition 15 as a pacesetter for similar campaigns in sixteen other states, were disappointed when it failed to pass.(97) A survey of club members indicated they agreed, by a ratio of 69 to 27 percent, with the recommendation made by the club's directors in 1974 that existing plants be allowed to operate, but that no new facilities be built until solutions were found to problems of waste storage, reactor safety, and sabotage. The members' response, the club Bulletin stated, did not represent "a radical opposition to nuclear power, but a serious thoughtful concern about the problems associated with nuclear power and the failure so far to find acceptable solutions."(98) Despite attention to nuclear safety in general and its unwillingness to cooperate again with Pacific Gas and Electric in the selection of new sites, the club continued to uphold its original decision to support the Diablo plant.(99)
The leadership in the protest against the Diablo Canyon reactors passed to direct action groups. In June 1977 the Abalone Alliance formed to protest the plant. A grassroots, state-wide network, its name had been selected in recognition of the abalone that had been and would be killed by thermal pollution from the reactors. Some alliance participants, unnerved by the Hosgri Fault, were residents of San Luis Obispo County. The methods of the alliance, which included civil disobedience actions, the distribution of political literature, and the staging of demonstrations and forums, were modeled after a nine-month occupation that had stopped a nuclear plant in Whyl, Germany. The first action of the Abalone Alliance was an attempted occupation of the Diablo site in August 1977. The next spring a second attempt drew about six thousand people.(100) Like the Clamshell Alliance, which had staged its first demonstration protesting the Seabrook plant in New Hampshire on April 30, 1977, the Headwaters' Alliance in western Montana, and other alliances elsewhere, the Abalone Alliance focused on the safety of a particular plant and on organizing state referendums that would address such issues.(101) FoE strongly endorsed and its members participated in the Abalone Alliance.
In fall 1978 Pacific Gas and Electric announced that as the result of a favorable safety report by a panel of experts reporting to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the "big Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will soon be sending electricity to homes and industries in Northern and Central California." The experts recommended the seismic design be reevaluated in ten years, concluding there "is reasonable assurance that (the units) can be operated . . . without undue risk to the health and safety of the public." The first unit was to begin operation the next year and the second eight months later. The 2.2-million-kilowatt capacity would serve two million people, increase the company's generating capacity by twenty percent, boost reserves at times of peak electrical demand, and serve the needs of new businesses and homes, which were growing at a rate of about 80,000 per year.(102)
Dramatic events in 1979 finally moved the Sierra Club to revoke completely its initial support for the Diablo Canyon plant. On March 29, a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, sustained an accident that resulted in the release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere and the meltdown of the rods in its core. The worst accident in a commercial reactor in United States history, its stunning impact on public consciousness was reinforced by the successful movie "The China Syndrome." The title referred to the possible consequences of a total failure of safety measures resulting in the meltdown of a nuclear core that could theoretically send it sinking toward China. The plot centered on a fictional incident at a Gas & Electric nuclear plant at Ventana on southern California's coast and subsequent public hearings on the proposed construction of a new nuclear plant at Point Conception—an allusion perhaps to southern California's coastal San Onofre plant and the Diablo project. (The press had in actuality announced a failure of the core cooling system in the San Onofre plant two days before it made public the discovery of the Hosgri Fault.) That May, the Sierra Club's board voted to oppose licensing of the Diablo Canyon plant—reversing its position of thirteen years. Also in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident, new Abalone Alliance groups formed in San Luis Obispo County and throughout California.(103) In June 1979, some 40,000 demonstrators—including a contingent bearing the banner of FoE—crowded onto Avila Beach in a Rally to Stop Diablo Canyon. Even California's Governor Jerry Brown came to join the effort to persuade the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny the license.(104)
If Diablo Canyon was one of the more controversial nuclear plants, the industry was by 1979 under general attack from consumer and antinuclear groups across the nation. That June, Connecticut became the ninth state to adopt a moratorium on construction of nuclear power stations, and initiatives were underway in twelve other states.(105) Although construction of nuclear plants had slowed because of a flattening of demand for electric power and burdensome licensing procedures, adverse public opinion played a role as well. (106) The Sierra Club applauded a November 1981 AP Wire Service-NBC News poll showing fifty-six percent of those polled opposed construction of new reactors.(107) Much public aversion was due to the accident at Three Mile Island, but well-publicized problems at other plants, including the nine then under construction, contributed. One was Diablo Canyon. That winter President Reagan's appointee to chair the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nunzio Palladino, told a House subcommittee that problems such as those at the Diablo Canyon plant had lessened even his confidence in the adequacy of the licensing process. In 1982, reflecting the widespread disillusionment with nuclear power, the Sierra Club also made antinuclear issues one of its conservation priorities.(108)
If the antinuclear movement, of which the club was clearly now part, centered upon concerns about radiation from commercial plants, it also involved proponents' opposition to weapons development.(109) Friends of the Earth contended there was "no peaceful atom"; civilian nuclear power and atomic bombs were linked, as the Reagan administration had made clear by endorsing in 1981 the use of commercially generated, spent atomic fuel to obtain weapons-grade plutonium.(110) "If we don't fight nuclear proliferation and win," Brower argued, "all the rest is academic.... not just the weapons but the reactors. Only then can we perhaps stop nuclear proliferation in the Third World." Ever the publicist and optimist, Brower told an interviewer: "I certainly don't think people who understand would want to build reactors anymore."(111)
Despite growing opposition to nuclear power, licensing of the Diablo facility proceeded. On September 9, 1981, opponents received word that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had granted the plant a security clearance, eliminating the last legal barrier to the low-power test license and loading the uranium-filled fuel rods. The Abalone Alliance sent out word to its affinity groups throughout California to gather for a non-violent blockade. The operating unit of the alliance, these groups organized like-minded people for specific tasks. Reporters descended on the alliance's coordinating center at Avila Beach. On September 15 the "People's Blockade" of Diablo Canyon launched a fourteen-day action, culminating in a non-violent assault. Working from a 30-acre "Camping/Briefing/ Training" tent city under massive power lines on a site loaned by a coastal landowner, blockaders descended on the 735-acre plant from all sides. From the west a sea blockade was coordinated by the Greenpeace sailing vessel, the trimaran Stone Witch. From the north, east, and south, protesters walked to the plant's main entrances—some hiking eleven miles across the canyon—to demonstrate the plant's vulnerability to sabotage. Local supporters with banners announcing "SLO Says No Diablo" marched on Sunday.
Protesters came from all over. With guitars, backpacks, long hair-hugging, smiling, and waving the peace sign- many traveled from counterculture communities along the coast, from Humboldt and Mendocino down through Santa Cruz and Big Sur. They carried signs cautioning "Warning: Diablo Canyon ... on Shaky Ground," and demanding "A Radioactive Free Future." Army choppers ferried official observers, and helmeted police in dark glasses faced down the marchers across the "Blue Line." With the protesters coordinating coverage, cameras captured the arrests. The organizers claimed that 12,500 marched in the last two days of the protest. With 1,900 arrested, Friends of the Earth reported it was "the largest civil disobedience action ever held at a nuclear facility, and the second largest civil disobedience action in US history."(112)
Days after the blockade, a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman told reporters and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that an inspector had discovered a design error in the plant's containment structures. The engineers, using the wrong blueprints, had installed in both reactors a number of safety and emergency cooling systems backwards. The commission ordered an inquiry. "Somehow," the protesters announced, "we're not surprised." Pacific Gas and Electric set out to correct the error, and the startup of the reactors was postponed.(113) By 1983 commercial nuclear power generation was on the defensive nationwide, with eighteen reactors cancelled, twenty-seven plants deferred, and no new ones ordered. A decline in electrical consumption and an oil glut had helped the anti-nuclear movement to dissuade utilities from building nuclear plants.(114)
Despite the industry's sagging fortunes, the Diablo plant was retooled and fuel loaded into one reactor late in 1983. In January 1984 the Atomic Safety and Licensing Appeals Board held hearings preliminary to a low-level testing of the facility and, despite critics' testimony, granted approval. On the day of the test, the Abalone Alliance staged demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience, following which the People's Emergency Response Plan, coordinated by a Diablo Project Office in San Luis Obispo, launched a sustained protest that included non-violent vigils and civil disobedience.(115) Nevertheless, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted the plant a full-power license that summer.
The following December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against a San Luis Obispo intervenor group, Mothers for Peace, which had sued claiming the emergency evacuation plans devised by utility and government officials would be inadequate in the event of an earthquake and reactor malfunction. The first unit went into full commercial operation on May 7, 1985, still under the shadow of dissent. Five days earlier, Mothers for Peace had won a court appeal for a rehearing of arguments as to earthquake safety. The rehearing did not affect the first unit, however, and only delayed operation of the second, which began generating electricity in March 1986.(116) The $5.6 billion plant had become operational, although not before it had helped both to discredit nuclear power and radicalize the environmental movement.
The struggle that had gone on in the late 1960s within the Sierra Club had divided long-time allies. It had developed into a conflict between the legitimacy of organization integrity and the legitimacy of principle. Well-established leaders had entered into negotiations with corporate and state officials, making a seemingly sound decision to save Nipomo Dunes by choosing another site. The decision, although·sanctioned by the board, was immediately challenged by those who felt it involved questions of the danger of nuclear power, the seduction of accommodation, the onslaught of industrialism and demographic growth, and the need to save open space and representative ecologies. Caught up in the increasingly militant and intransigent environmental activism of the late 1960s, the save-Diablo group refused to concede conscience and audacity to the organizational imperative. The proponents of the decision logically countered by fashioning the discourse into the language of order and authority. The fight moved out of the board room into the full glare of media attention that the club's new prominence attracted. Across the California landscape, people, especially the young—nowhere more than in Berkeley, where many club members lived—challenged the expertise, professional competence, and past achievements of traditional organizations. The initial outcome of the Diablo Canyon debate, however, had reaffirmed organizational integrity.
Because the fight had translated into one of respect for duly constituted authority, however, the substantive issues associated with nuclear energy were left to be addressed in the 1970s. An outgrowth of division within the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth immediately embraced the antinuclear, limited growth position as a matter of morality and conscience, but the club moved pragmatically and gradually toward an antinuclear position in response to questions of reactor safety, discovery of the Hosgri Fault near Diablo, and the accident at Three Mile Island. The club more quickly embraced regional planning and the desirability of limiting industrialism and economic growth and did not build on the precedent of accommodation. The club did not participate as Friends of the Earth did in the new direct action protest effort, but the two groups ultimately became allies in the same environmental battle. The outcome of this battle was to help curtail nuclear power development in the United States.
Susan R. Schrepfer (1941-2014) was author of The Fight to Save the Redwoods: A History of Environmental Reform, 1917-1978 (1983).
1. William E. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club, the Environment, and Mountaineering,1950s-1970s," interview conducted by Ann Lage (Berkeley: University of California, Bancroft Regional Oral History Office, 1979), 98.
2. David R. Brower,"Environmental Activist, Publicist, and Prophet," interview conducted by Susan R. Schrepfer (Berkeley: University of California, Bancroft Regional Oral History Office), 220; see also David R. Brower, For Earth's Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower (Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books, 1990), 240.
3. There have been three major interpreters of recent Sierra Club history. Of the three, Stephen Fox is the least emphatic about Diablo Canyon's significance, stating that "the issue between Brower and his nonprofessional officers was essentially money," but he conceded Diablo "was the only substantive policy issue between Brower and his adversaries in the club"; see Stephen Fox, John Muir and his Legacy: The American Conservation Movement (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1981), 320-21, 328. Michael Cohen has written that Diablo split the club "as seriously as Hetch Hetchy had over 50 years earlier"; see Michael Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 1892-1970 (S.F.: Sierra Club, 1988), 369. Douglas Strong has stated simply: "It was Brower's stand on a proposed power plant along the coast of California ... that proved his undoing"; see Strong, Dreamers and Defenders: American Conservationists (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 212.
4. Strong, Dreamers and Defenders, 212; Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 369.
5. "Angry Protest on Atom Plant," San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 1962; David E. Pesonen, A Visit to the Atomic Park, (San Francisco: 1962); Joan Mcintyre, "Bodega Bay: The People vs. the Experts," transcript of KPFA radio broadcast, Berkeley, Calif., November 16, 1963, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club-Harold Bradley Papers, Bodega Head files; Brower, "A Report to the Committee on Natural Resources," February 21, 1963, Eissler Papers (when I used the papers, they were located in Eissler's Santa Barbara home); Sierra Club Press Release, "Sierra Club Urges Stop Work at Bodega," June13,1963, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Bodega files; "Prompted by AEC Report," San Francisco News-Call-Bulletin, October 30, 1964.
6. George Collins to Charles Judson, January 16, 1967, Bancroft, Sierra Club Papers, Diablo files; Richard Leonard, "Mountaineer, Lawyer, Environmentalist," interview conducted by Susan R. Schrepfer (Berkeley: University of California, Bancroft Regional Oral History Office, 1975), 282-306.
7. William Siri, Nuclear Radiation and Isotopic Tracers (1949). For his position on nuclear power, see Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club," 156-71.
8. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, June 9, 1963, and September 7, 1963, reaffirmed May 1, 1965. (All minutes of the club's board of directors meetings are held in the Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Board of Directors files.)
9. Collins to Judson, January, 16, 1967; Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club," 93; Kathy Jackson to Eissler, "Miscellaneous Material," June 30, 1965, Eissler Papers, Santa Barbara.
10. A 1959 state Department of Parks and Recreation study had ranked the dunes seventh on their list of sixty-six proposed sites.
11. Santa Barbara News-Press, January 15, 1966, p. A-8; Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1966; San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, January 23, 1966; San Luis Obispo The Daily Press, April 19, 1966; Santa Maria Times, May 6, 1966.
12. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club,"93-94; Collins to Judson, January 16, 1967.
13. San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, February 9 and 10, 1965, discussed in Eissler to Siri, February 16, 1965; see also Eissler to Siri, January 21, 1965, and February 23, 1965, Eissler Papers.
14. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club," 94-95.
15. Richard Leonard to Board of Directors, April 24, 1968, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club-Ansel Adams Papers, Brower controversy files.
16. Lewis Clark, "Sierra Club Growth,"Report in Sierra Club, Minute Books, 1966. (The Minute Books are located in the Sierra Club's Colby Library, San Francisco.)
17. Minutes, Board of Directors, March5, 1966.
18. William E. Siri, President's Report to the Board of Directors, May 7, 1966, Sierra Club, Minute Books, 1966.
19. Minutes, Sierra Club Board of Directors, May 7-8, 1966.
20. San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 1966, p. l.
21. Santa Maria Times, May 9, 1966; Jenness Keene, "Solving Reactor Siting in California," Nucleonics 24 (December 1966): 53-55, 68.
22. Santa Maria Times, July 14,1966; Santa Barbara News-Press, September 21, 1966.
23. Martin Litton, "Sierra Club Director and Uncompromising Preservationist, 1950s-1970s," interview conducted by Ann Lage (Berkeley: University of California, Regional Oral History Office, 1982), 51-56. Also not present were George Marshall, Eliot Porter, and John Oakes; Porter and Oakes later questioned the decision.
24. Adams to Litton, July 12, Litton to Adams, July 14, 1966; Adams to Litton, August 31, 1966; Litton to Adams, September 1, 1966, Eissler Papers.
25. Delee S. Marshall, Secretary, Los Padres Chapter, to George Marshall, June 16, 1966; Jackson to Litton, June 15, 1966, Eissler Papers.
26. Jackson to Siri, June 14, 1966, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club-Brower Papers, Diablo files.
27. San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, June 29, 1966; Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1966.
28. Siri to Louis Wilson, May 31, 1966, Eissler Papers.
29. Siri to Frederick Eissler, June 22, 1966, Eissler Papers. The article was by Malcolm Peterson. Siri replied with an article by Meril Eisenbud, professor of environmental medicine and director of the Environmental Radiation Laboratory at the New York University Medical Center. Eisenbud had been associated with the U.5. Atomic Energy Commission's Health and Safety Laboratory since 1947. Meril Eisenbud, "Radiation in Perspective," Nuclear Safety 6 (Summer1965): 380-85. Eisenbud discussed "fallacies underlying five frequently quoted reasons why nuclear reactors should not be built near population centers" (p. 384).
30. Eissler to McCloskey, June 1926, 1966, Eissler Papers.
31. David Brower, "Environmental Activist," 201-202, 223.
32. George Marshall to Brower, January 14, 1967, Bancroft, Sierra Club-Brower Papers, Brower controversy.
33. Santa Maria Times, July 14, 1966, p. 1; Arroyo Grande Herald Recorder, July 21, 1966.
34. Jenness Keene, "Solving Reactor Siting in California," Nucleonics 24 (December1966): 53.
35. Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1966; Roseville Press-Tribune, October 4, 1966; Arroyo Grande Herald Recorder, October 27, 1966.
36. Norman F. Rohn to George Marshall, July 14, 1966, Eissler Papers.
37. New York Times, August 28, 1966, section 3-Financial, p. 1.
38. "$250 Million Nuclear Plant Set by Utilities in New Jersey," Sacramento Bee, August 22, 1966. They were Philadelphia Electric Company, the Public Service Electric and Gas Company, and the Delaware Power and Light Company.
39. After it got approval for Diablo Canyon, the company purchased 366 acres near Point Arena, one hundred miles north of San Francisco. The club told the press it reserved judgement on the site; see San Francisco Chronicle, July 26, 1966. The club later opposed the Point Arena plant, and in 1973 the company withdrew its applications for licensing. The existing PG&E nuclear plants were at Vallecitos and Humboldt Bay.
40. Keene, "Solving Reactor Siting in California," 53-54, 68.
41. Roseville, California, Press-Tribune, October 4, 1966.
42. University of California, Institute of Marine Resources, LaJolla, California, "California and Use of the Ocean," Report to the California State Office of Planning, October 1965, 5-12.
43. Sierra Club Conservation Committee, Southern Section, September 17, 1965, Minute Books, 1966.
44. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, September 17-18, 1966.
45. Minutes, Sierra Club, Executive Committee, June 23 and August 21, 1966. In Minute Books, Sierra Club Office, 1966.
46. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, September 17-18, 1966; Santa Barbara News Press, September 21, 1966.
47. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club,"109.
48. Adams to Edgar Wayburn, June 16, 1968, Bancroft, Sierra Club Papers, Brower controversy files.
49. Marshall to Jackson, September 28, 1966, Eissler Papers.
50. Alexander Hildebrand, "Sierra Club Leader and Critic: Perspectives on Club Growth, Scope, and Tactics, 1950s-1970s," interview conducted by Ann Lage (Berkeley: University of California, Bancroft Regional Oral History Office, 1982), 33-35.
51. Michael McCloskey, "Sierra Club Executive Director: The Evolving Club and the Environmental Movement, 1961-1981," interview conducted by Susan R. Schrepfer (Berkeley: University of California, Bancroft Regional Oral History Office, 1983), 93.
52. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, January 7-8, 1967.
53. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club," 109-10.
54. Eissler to Phillip Berry, January 10, 1967, Eissler Papers; Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, January 7-8, 1967.
55. Brower, Press Release, January 9, 1967, Bancroft, Sierra Club-Brower Papers, Brower controversy.
56. Siri to Marshall, January 11, 1967, Eissler Papers.
57. Marshall to Brower, January 14, 1967, Bancroft Library, Brower Papers, Brower controversy.
58. Brower to Board of Directors, January 19, 1967, Bancroft Library, Brower Papers, Brower controversy.
59. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club,"112; Hugh Nash to Siri, February 16, 1967, Eissler Papers; Brower, "Environmental Activist, Publicist, and Activist," 224.
60. Brower, "Environmental Activist," 224; William Siri and Ansel Adams,"In Defense of a Victory: The Nipomo Dunes," and George Marshall, "Background on Nipomo Dunes-Diablo Canyon Issue," Sierra Club Bulletin 52 (February 1967): 4-5, 1, 3, 18.
61. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, February 18, 1967; Alan P. Carlin, William E. Hoehn, Laurence I. Moss, "Nuclear Powerplant Sites Selection for the PG & E System,"Report Prepared by a Select Committee at the Request of the Sierra Club, Board of Directors, February 18, 1967, Eissler Papers.
62. Memo to Sierra Club Board of Directors and Council from George Marshall, April 6, 1967, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Board of Director files.
63. Committee to Clarify the Diablo Issue, Yonkees, New York, "This is the Issue"; "Sierra Club Members Get New York," Santa Maria Times, April 6, 1967.
64. San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 1967, and February 12 and 17, 1967.
65. Los Angeles Times, December 26, 1966, and February 17, 1967; San Francisco Examiner, January 11, 1967.
66. Santa Maria Times, February 6, 1967, "Ex-PG & E Official Blasts Minority in SC"; Willits News, January 4, 1967; Bellflower, Calif., Herald-Enterprise, January 8, 1967; San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, February 15, 1967.
67. Grover City Press, January 12, 1967; Santa Maria Times, January 17, 1967, February 6, 1967; San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune, January 19, February 20, 1967.
68. Minutes, Sierra Club, Council, February 19, 1967. Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Council files.
69. In the 1967 ballot mailed to the members were the following items: George Marshall, "Petition Proposition on Diablo Canyon;" William Siri and Ansel Adams, "Statement in Favor of Diablo Canyon Action"; David Brower, Polly Dyer, Frederick Eissler, Martin Litton, Daniel Luten, David Pesonen, Eliot Porter, George Treichel, "Statement in Opposition to Diablo Canyon Action."
70. To all members of the Board and Council of the Sierra Club from Phil Bernays, Harold Bradley, Harold Crowe, Francis Farquhar, Clifford Heimbucher, Alexander Hildebrand, Joel Hildebrand, Milton Hildebrand, Bestor Robinson, and Robert Sproul, April 28, 1967, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Brower controversy.
71. George Dusheck, "Sierra Club's Chief Wins," San Francisco Examiner, May 7, 1967, front page; San Francisco Chronicle, May 6, 1967; Oakland Tribune, May 7,1967; Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, May 6, 1967.
72. Ibid.; Siri to Board of Directors, May 1, 1967, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers.
73. The application was filed with Public Utilities Commission on December 23, 1966 (Application# 49501), and with the Atomic Energy Commission in January 1967, see "PG & E's Formal Application for A-Plant Permit to AEC," San Francisco Chronicle, January 19, 1967.
74. For the organization's history and purpose, see Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference, Inc., Newsletter,(March,1969), Eissler Papers.
75. Eissler quote from typed transcript of Sierra Club, Meeting, Board of Directors, December 14, 1968, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers, Board of Directors files; Los Angeles Times, February 17, 1967.
76. "PUC Approves Nuclear Plant," San Francisco Chronicle, November 8, 1967; Press Release, Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference, Inc., November 20, 1967, Eissler Papers; Santa Barbara News Press, November 23, 1967.
77. The appeal charged the commission with having neglected the state's Marine Resources Conservation and Development Act of 1967; see Press Release, Scenic Shoreline Preservation Conference, Inc., November 20, 1967.
78. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, May 4-5, 1968; Berry, F. Eissler, P. Goldsworthy, L. Leopold, M. Litton, L. I. Moss, J. Oakes, E. Porterto Sherman Sibley, June 22, 1968, Bancroft, Sierra Club-Edgar Wayburn Papers, Diablo Canyon files.
79. Director Phil Berry told PG & E the board's resolution did not "overrule the club's referendum or change the club's stand with respect to Diablo Canyon";Berry to Sibley, September 16, 1968; see also Brower to Editors of All Club Publications, September 16, 1968, Wayburn to Editors, September 18, 1968, Berry to Recipients of Martin Litton's letters of October 11 and 28,1968, Wayburn to Litton, December 11, 1968, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club-Wayburn Papers, Diablo Canyon files.
80. Typed transcript of Sierra Club, Board of Directors Meeting, December 14, 1968; Leonard to San Francisco Chronicle, December 23,1968, Bancroft, Sierra Club Papers, Harold Bradley files. "Inconsistent Club," San Francisco Examiner, July 3, 1968; "A Sierra Club Crisis," San Francisco Chronicle, December 22, 1968; Pamphlet, Concerned Members for Conservation, September 3, 1968.
81. Minutes, SC Board of Directors, Oct. 19, 1968; Brower to Sen., James Murray, April 29, 1960, Bancroft Library, Sierra Club Papers.
82. Committee for an Active Bold Constructive Sierra Club, "Shall the Sierra Club revert to its days as a society of 'companions on the trail'? Or, shall it be an eloquent successful voice for causes that might otherwise have no voice at all? You decide"; "Concerning the Sierra Club Election: Recommendations from a Group of Active Bay Chapter Members"; Sierra Club members—to save the SIERRA CLUB, "Two Important Letters," [March 7, 1969), Bancroft, Sierra Club Papers, Brower Controversy. See also Ballot enclosure, "Information About the Sierra Club Election of April 12, 1969," Sierra Club Minute Books, 1969.
83. Wallace Stegner, "Bitten By Worm of Power," Palo Alto Times, February11,1969.
84. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, May 3-4, 1969. For descriptions of the controversy and meeting, see Leonard, "Mountaineer, Lawyer, Environmentalist," 345-52; John McPhee, Encounters with the Archdruid (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1971), 211-20; Cohen, The History of the Sierra Club, 430-34.
85. David Brower, "Open Letter to AIF Board Members," Not Man Apart 4 (February 1974): 1. On the limits to growth debate, see Bryan G. Norton, Toward Unity Among Environmentalists (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 101-19. Brower, "The Meaning of Wilderness to Recreation," October 1, 1959, Speech before National Recreation Congress, Chicago, Bancroft Library, Brower Papers; Brower, "How Dense Should People Be?" Sierra Club Bulletin 44 (April 1959): 12-13.
86. Robbie Brandwynne, et al., "A Conversation with David Brower," Yodeler June 1977), 6-7.
87. David Brower, "Ramboillet Meeting Proposes Nuclear Moratorium," Not Man Apart (March 1971): 7-8.
88. The club had asked the Atomic Energy Commission to hold public hearings and set criteria for the selection and use of nuclear waste repositories; see Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, May 1-2, 1971.
89. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, October 21-22, 1972.
90. Siri, "Reflections on the Sierra Club,"163, 171.
91. Steve Whitney, "Nuclear Emergency Core Cooling Systems: The Debate Heats Up," Sierra Club Bulletin 58 (March 1973):16, 31; Robert Gillette, "Nuclear Reactor Safety: At The AEC The Way of Dissent Is Hard," Science 176 (May 5, 1972): 492-98.
92. Two days earlier the public had learned the San Onofre nuclear plant had been forced to close because of damage to the emergency cooling system; see "Southland A-Plant Damaged, Closed," Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1973, p. 1.
93. Los Angeles Times, November24, 1973, p. 1; Mark Evanoff, "Boondoggle at Diablo: The 18-Year Saga of Greed, Deception, Ineptitude—and Opposition," Not Man Apart 11 (September 1981): D-6 to D-7.
94. Evanoff, "Boondoggle at Diablo," D-6 to D-7.
95. Michael McCloskey, "Who is to Blame?" and "Letter from Laurence I. Moss to William Simon," Sierra Club Bulletin, 59 (February 1974): 14, 20-23; Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, January 12-13, 1974.
96. Club President Laurence I. Moss, who chaired the Federal Energy Office's Environmental Advisory Committee, abstained; see Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, January 12-13, 1974.
97. Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, December 13-14,1975, and February 21-22, 1976, p. 9; Joseph Fontaine and Phillip Berry, "Editorial: Nuclear Safety Initiative," Sierra Club Bulletin 61 (March 1976): 21-22; Ronald Doctor, Jim Harding and John Holdren, "The California Nuclear Safeguards Initiative," Sierra Club Bulletin 61 (May1976):4-6, 44. The state's three operable plants were located at Humboldt Bay, Rancho Seco, and San Onofre.
98. Kathryn Ann Utrup, "How Sierra Club Members See Environmental Issues, Sierra Club Bulletin 64 (March/ April 1979): 18.
99. The board tabled, with no discussion, a resolution calling for the club to "explore the need and uses of establishing a liaison committee with industry along the same lines as it had with labor"; see Minutes, Sierra Club, Board of Directors, May 5-6, 1973.
100. Evanoff, "Boondoggle at Diablo: The 18- Year Saga of Greed, Deception, Ineptitude—and Opposition," D 1 - D 16; Peter Pringle and James Spigelman, The Nuclear Barons (New York: Avon Books, 1981), 372.
101. Samuel P. Hays, Beauty, Health, and Permanence, Environmental Politics in the United States,1955-1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 182.
102. "Diablo Canyon Operation Likely in Early '79," PG and E Progress (September 1978), p. 1.
103. Frances Gendlin, "The China Syndrome: A Movie Review," Sierra Club Bulletin 64 (May/June 1979): 68-70.
104. "Brown Says 'No on Diablo!"' Not Man Apart 9 (August 1979): 16.
105. "Connecticut OKS Nuclear Ban Bills," Not Man Apart 9 (August 1979): 17; "New Wave of Moratorium Bills and Initiatives Spawned by TMI," Nucleonics Week 20 (June 14, 1979): 10-11. The other states included California, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin.
106. Ibid.; "Boston Edison Plans to Cancel Nuclear Plant," The Wall Street Journal, September 25, 1981, p. 6.
107. Jim Harding, FoE's energy director, 'Three Mile Island: Three Years After," Sierra Club Bulletin 67 (March/April1982): 22.
108. Harding, "Three Mile Island: Three Years After," 22; "Sierra Club Conservation Priorities for 1982," Sierra Club Bulletin 67 (March/April 1982): 19.
109. Kent Gill, Sierra Club president, to Richard Nixon, June 22,1974, Bancroft, Sierra Club Papers, Gill files; Jim Harding and Mike Shuman, "The Environmental Catastrophe of Nuclear War," Not Man Apart 13 (December 1983): 16-18.
110. "More Plutonium for Weapons Proposed," Not Man Apart 11 (November 1981): 4; Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link (S. F.: Friends of the Earth, 1980).
111. Robble Brandwynne, et al., "A Conversation with David Brower," Yodeler June 1977): 6-7.
112. Eugene Phillips and Wayne Saroyan, eds., Blockade: Direct Action at Diablo Canyon: A Book of Photo-reproductions (Halcyon, Calif.: Imaginary Press, 1981), in Sierra Club, Colby Library, San Francisco;"Diablo Protesters Show Plant's Vulnerability," Not Man Apart 11 (November 1981): 5.
113. Jim Harding, "Good News, Bad News for Diablo Canyon," Not Man Apart 11 (November 1981): 17.
114. David Gancher, "1983: A Look Back at the Year's Most Important Environmental Events," Sierra Club Bulletin 69 January/February 1984): 42; Jim Harding, "Challenge '83: Thoughts for the Anti-nuclear Movement," Not Man Apart 13 (April 1983): 20-21. Projects cancelled included the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina, and the Zimmer Plant in Ohio. California's Humboldt Bay Plant, in mothballs since 1976 because it failed to meet seismic standards, was also decommissioned.
115. Mark Evanoff, "Diablo Canyon: Push to Operate," Not Man Apart 14 (January 1984): 22.
116. Los Angeles Times, May 2,1985, and May 7, 1985.