Nuclear backers: California legislature, not PUC, should review Diablo Canyon closure
- The pro-nuclear nonprofit Environmental Progress wants the California Public Utilities Commission to step aside and allow the state legislature to determine the fate of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, slated for closure by Pacific Gas & Electric.
- In a filing last Wednesday, the group said the CPUC should refuse to review the joint settlement PG&E made with environmental and labor groups on the closure of the 2,240 MW plant, arguing the agency is in a "crisis of legitimacy." The CPUC is currently under two criminal investigations.
- The filing will "unnecessarily delay" the review of the joint settlement, which seeks to replace Diablo Canyon with a mix of zero-carbon resources and efficiency, a PG&E spokesperson told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Berkeley-based Environmental Progress has been one of the most vocal critics of the plan to close Diablo Canyon since PG&E announced its agreement with labor and environmental groups in June.
At the time, the group's president Mike Shellenberger went as far to say the agreement was negotiated by "corrupt institutions behaving unethically and perhaps illegally" — a charge the utility and its partners in the joint settlement vehemently deny.
Beyond the rhetoric, the worry from EP and other nuclear supporters is that PG&E cannot successfully replace the 18,000 GWh of yearly generation from Diablo Canyon with zero-carbon resources and efficiency. Increased natural gas generation and imports of fossil fuel power will be the result, they say.
But PG&E and its settlement partners say California's energy landscape would have made it uneconomic to operate the Diablo Canyon plant after 2025 anyway. Increasing renewable generation and aggressive efficiency policies mean the plant would not be needed for 24/7 generation, diminishing its value proposition, they told regulators in the settlement.
If Environmental Progress gets its way, the CPUC wouldn't have a say in the proposal at all. The group last week asked regulators to step aside and allow state lawmakers to have the final decision over the closure.
Calling the process a "rush job," the group said the CPUC should do nothing on the proposal until criminal investigations are closed, emails from past controversies released and holistic reforms accomplished. State lawmakers failed to pass two far-reaching CPUC reform bills before the legislative session ended last month.
The CPUC is currently under two criminal investigations related to outside communications, the Union-Tribune notes, and is currently re-litigating the closure of another nuclear plant, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
In June, regulators reopened the closure agreement, which shouldered ratepayers with 70% of the costs ($3.3 billion), after secret negotiations came to light between former CPUC President Michael Peevey and executives from Southern California Edison. The utility was fined $16.7 million last year for failing to disclose the communications.
The CPUC did not comment on the substance of Environmental Progress's request, telling the Union-Tribune it would "consider the motion and respond as appropriate."
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