The proposal to close Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has the attention of our entire community. The Coalition of Cities, county of San Luis Obispo and the San Luis Coastal Unified School District all realize the devastating economic impacts that a nuclear plant closure will have, and they have become interveners in the California Public Utilities Commission case. But instead of advocating for a few more bucks to slow the painful rip of the financial Band-Aid, our community leaders should use this platform to advocate for the best future for their constituents — continued operation of the plant.
PG&E is not a charity; they are a for-profit company. They are not obligated to become San Luis Obispo County’s benefactor after we’ve closed down their business. Their job is to provide electricity in accordance with the state’s mandates, and that is exactly what they’re doing.
The extra money that our community wants is proposed to come from PG&E ratepayers — not shareholders. This spreads the bill across PG&E’s service territory, which includes many areas of our state that are far less fortunate than us. They are rightly asking why they are being asked to pay for our decisions. The proposal to close Diablo Canyon will raise our electric bills even more, skyrocketing our already high rates — not what we will need after we lose 1,500 jobs and more than $1 billion per year to our local economy. The outrage has just begun, as ratepayers will see this proposal raise their rates in the near-term.
For a county that is seemingly so outraged by oil trains, our citizens and leaders are surprisingly demure about the proposal to close Diablo Canyon. When nuclear plants are closed, the majority of their power is replaced by fossil fuels — every single time. The best way to stop the expansion of fossil fuels is to not need them anymore. If we agree to close Diablo Canyon, we are agreeing to increase our reliance on environmentally harmful and economically volatile fossil fuels — a very sad state of affairs for our environment and our pocketbooks.
The closure of Diablo Canyon will be an environmental tragedy in the midst of a clean energy crisis. This is what our community should be complaining about. We will lose 22 percent of California’s emissions-free electricity, and then hope that we can make up the difference with intermittent technologies. And the ultimate irony? The Joint Proposal to replace Diablo Canyon “with a portfolio of greenhouse gas-free resources” doesn’t actually commit to replacing any of that power. The proposal relies on energy efficiency, i.e. not using as much power. Isn’t that something we should be doing anyway?
The proposal does include a commitment to 55 percent renewables by 2031, long after Diablo closes. However, this actually represents a step down in low-carbon generation — it was 58 percent in 2015, with Diablo Canyon operating. We will be paying more for almost no measurable action on air pollution and climate change.
Our decisions in California are pricing the young generation out of the area and cheating our children out of clean air and a livable climate. We need fresh thinking and bold action from elected officials. Our children and our communities are counting on our leaders to step up and do the right thing for our families — for our futures.
Kristin Zaitz and Heather Matteson are co-founders of Mothers for Nuclear, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop a global community of support for clean energy. This opinion is theirs alone.