A few years ago, PG&E went to great expense to justify the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, boasting that the plant had an annual economic impact of $1 billion in San Luis Obispo County. Now, it has suddenly changed its position and plans to shut the plant down, and PG&E wants to downplay the staggering figure it once trumpeted to the public.
We fear that PG&E will leave it to the communities surrounding it to mitigate the impacts on San Luis Obispo County’s economy. We also believe PG&E wants to rush approval of this decision to avoid helping our communities thrive after Diablo’s closure.
In August, PG&E formally requested the closure with the California Public Utilities Commission. While it consulted with environmental and labor groups behind closed doors before filing its request, it didn’t inform elected officials, or seek their input. In fact, its proposal neglected to even consider how the closure might impact the community, and it certainly didn’t offer any assistance in offsetting negative impact.
Frankly, the coalition believes PG&E has a responsibility to fairly address its impacts.
Our communities greatly contributed to the success of the nuclear plant and provided a competent, loyal workforce that helped the plant realize revenues of $1.45 billion in 2014. SLO County also benefited. The county’s largest private employer offered outstanding wages, and the county’s biggest taxpayer provided millions to local schools, libraries and roads.
We don’t want to be like other communities that have experienced nuclear plant shutdowns and have helplessly witnessed the resulting unemployment, decreased home values and losses to indispensable public services that have weakened their economic vitality and devastated their communities.
Recognizing that the loss of $1 billion will impact the county, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles and Morro Bay formed an unprecedented Coalition of Cities to address the closure and a post-Diablo economy. Then the coalition filed a protest with the CPUC — which must approve the joint proposal for closure — in the hope of compelling PG&E to negotiate in good faith to achieve meaningful solutions to community concerns.
While PG&E initially expressed regret that it had left out the communities, its formal response to our CPUC filing blatantly contradicted that sentiment. In its rebuttal, PG&E has argued that the CPUC did not have to consider economic impact, land use or nuclear waste storage — this is unacceptable.
PG&E says it wants to consider these important issues after the closure is approved by CPUC, the only real authority that can compel the company to address the impact of Diablo’s closure. In other words, PG&E wants us to trust that they will do the right thing, without making any real commitments to do so. We call on PG&E to engage in meaningful and productive negotiations with our communities now.
California policymakers and the CPUC should ensure PG&E is required to come to the table in a timely fashion. Residents who want to continue to enjoy the economic and natural bounty of our region need to speak out and demand corporate accountability and insist that PG&E not leave economic impacts and nuclear waste as reminders of our time together.
Today we protest PG&E’s proposal to get quick approval of its closure without real negotiations with our local cities or real accountability for its impacts, which we fear will cast an ominous cloud over our residents, small businesses and others, and leave an impact for years to come.
We encourage the public to voice concerns when the CPUC holds hearings at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden in El Chorro Regional Park.
The Coalition of Cities includes San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles and Morro Bay.