About 100 people attended a California Public Utilities Commission meeting Thursday in San Luis Obispo as the agency begins considering PG&E’s plans to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in the next decade.
The commission held two public participation meetings Thursday, marking the first time local stakeholders have had a chance to respond to the utility’s application not to relicense its two nuclear reactors when their permits expire in 2024 and 2025.
The meetings are a prelude to legal hearings set to begin sometime in early 2017.
Speakers at Thursday’s first meeting consisted mainly of representatives from six of the county’s seven cities — all but Grover Beach — that formed a coalition this summer to voice their displeasure that PG&E didn’t include them in drafting its closure proposal. Those speakers all told the commission they’re worried what would happen to the local economy, as well as to the nuclear plant facilities and land, once the plant closes.
Some speakers bemoaned the closure, and some expressed worries that electricity rates would climb to pay for the closure and new renewable energy projects.
PG&E announced its decision in June, saying it was part of a joint proposal with labor and environmental organizations to increase the company’s investment in energy efficiency, renewable power and electricity storage to offset the power that will no longer be produced by the nuclear plant.
Without proper planning and the help of PG&E, the Diablo closure would depress the happiest city in North America.
San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx
The CPUC previously held a preconference hearing Oct. 6 to discuss what would actually be within the scope of the current deliberations, such as impacts to the local economy or how the lands and facilities would be used after decommissioning.
Those continued to be top concerns Thursday, especially among the city and county representatives who spoke.
“Without proper planning and the help of PG&E, the Diablo closure would depress the happiest city in North America,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx said. “We don’t want San Luis Obispo residents to suffer the way communities (have suffered) in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Illinois, to name a few.”
Marx added that “no model exists for addressing economic impact on cities” where nuclear power plants have closed, and she asked for PG&E to provide more data and possibly funding to determine the economic impacts.
A 2013 Cal Poly study estimated that the power plant adds about $1 billion a year to the local economy and provides about 3,286 jobs to residents across the county. As part of its proposal, PG&E has offered to pay about $50 million to San Luis Obispo County through 2025 to offset declining property taxes.
It also has promised a $520 million employee program that would provide incentives to retain employees during the remaining years of operation, retrain plant personnel for redeployment during decommissioning or for other positions within the company. The potential program also would provide severance payments upon the completion of employment.
Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis told the commission he worries about the effects the plant’s closure would have on the coastal town’s economy. A preliminary analysis by the city shows Pismo Beach’s economy is expected to benefit from Diablo Canyon by as much as $18.7 million from 2017 through 2025, much of it from hotel transient occupancy taxes when extra workers arrive each year for the plant’s planned outages for maintenance.
That revenue would be lost once Diablo Canyon closes.
“You, the Public Utilities Commission, have the opportunity to recognize that closures of this type have the ability to irreparably harm our communities,” Lewis said.
Others asked the commission to keep the plant open, saying a closure would mean losing the state’s last nuclear power plant, the loss of “clean energy” and the potential for increased energy rates.
“Given the significant and devastating environmental and economic impacts of plant closure, our future should not be gambled on the many assumptions that are in this joint proposal,” said Kristin Zaitz, co-founder of Mothers for Nuclear. “I encourage the CPUC to consider that.”
PG&E has said it does not expect rates to go up as a result of the proposal at this time.
Administrative Judge Peter Allen, who will ultimately decide whether to approve PG&E’s application, said previously that he expected to make a decision on what will be within the scope of the hearings sometime after Thursday’s public participation meetings.
He added Thursday that more local meetings should be expected. As the actual legal proceedings begin in early 2017, Allen said he plans to continue to hold local meetings over the proceeding months to give residents the opportunity to weigh in on new information or to change their views.