Survey avoided hard questions
May 24, 2013
OPINION By JULIE TACKER
The recent telephone survey gauging the impacts of County Supervisor Bruce Gibson’s long-term affair with his legislative assistant Cherie Aispuro also asked participants their ranking of importance on county issues. Protecting its clean air, the plastic bag ban, the Los Osos sewer and some softball issues like potholes.
The survey failed to ask participants how they felt about the county’s handling of Aispuro’s job or how Gibson fairs on important water issues or his support for PG&E’s offshore seismic testing project.
Seismic testing is likely the largest issue to ever face this county, perhaps the state.
Supervisor Gibson was selected to serve on the seismic testing Independent Peer Review Panel to represent all of San Luis Obispo County, largely because he holds a Ph.D. in geophysics, having specialized in seismic reflection survey techniques. Constituents were led to believe that Gibson had their best interest at heart; balancing what he called the “moral dilemma” of blowing up the ocean with 250 decibel underwater cannon blasts against protecting all life on the California coast should a disaster at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant mirror the tragedy in Fukushima, Japan.
Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility. Dr. Gibson represented himself as the county’s foremost authority on the subject as the project rushed through its approval process. Gibson shepherded the SLO County Board of Supervisors into formulating a position that “opposed the project as proposed” preferring it done using a larger ship, but still very much in support of the seismic testing.
Squishy politician semantics, even project proponent PG&E, “opposed the project as proposed” seeking to blast much more area of the ocean than proposed.
Dr. Gibson admitted he had left the field of geotechnical oil exploration 20-plus years ago, yet represented himself as an “independent peer.” Gibson went so far as to draft a letter to PG&E regarding the seismic survey design that the entire Board of Supervisor’s signed. Some supervisor’s suggested the technical nature of the letter was beyond their ability to comprehend; jokingly they uttered they would have their college attending, ‘smarter-than-they’, children explain it to them. Not all that funny if you think about it.
Documents obtained from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) reveal the county, at the direction of Gibson, hired two geophysicist consultants to review the seismic survey designs and assist him in writing the complex letter.
These geophysicists consulting fees, county counsel’s time for research and review, along with Gibson’s travel and lodging expenses were billed to the CPUC; reimbursable by the $64 million to be passed through to the PG&E ratepayers for the seismic testing project.
The county charges total just under $10,000, not a lot of money in the scheme of things, but charged to the ratepayer in the form of electric rates skews objectivity and casts doubt over just how “independent” Gibson was. In at least one instance, Gibson’s Hyatt Regency Gold Passport was credited for his hotel stay; as a frequent guest he accumulates bonus points earning perks that benefit him personally.
To be truly independent, the county would not have relied on others for guidance and certainly not because it was reimbursable.
At the Coastal Commission hearing in November, hundreds of people (at their own expense) made their way to Santa Monica. As hugs and high-fives, tears and cheers roared through the crowd when the commission voted unanimously to deny seismic testing, Gibson (there on our dime), seated next to PG&E representatives and project lobbyists, turned toward the sea of suits to conciliatorily shake their hands. Long-faced and alone he made his way out of the room toward the barrage of media staged outside. Avoiding those celebrating, those he “represents”.
“He who sleeps with dogs gets up with fleas.” Who Gibson sleeps with figuratively matters much more to voters than who he sleeps with literally.