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Diablo Closure Mitigation in Gov. Brown’s Hands

By Mark A. Diaz

Photo Credit: Michael A. Mariant/SIPA Press

The Diablo Mitigation Senate Bill (SB) 1090 designed to address community impact of the power plant’s retirement moved to the governor’s desk where he has until Sept. 30 to ratify or veto the bill.

The bill, authored by California Central Coast representatives Senator Bill Monning (D) and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R), requires the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to approve an $85 million settlement to the local government agencies. The San Luis Coastal Unified School District stated in a letter requesting support for SB-1090 that “the agreement would provide $10 million as seed money for the San Luis Coastal Education Foundation and $26 million for transitional planning efforts leading up to the plant’s closure.”

The bipartisan bill passed with an overwhelming majority with a Senate vote of 31 to 4 in May 2018 and a 67 to 1 vote in the Assembly on Aug. 20. SB 1090 was drafted in response to the CPUC stating it did not have the authority to impose mitigation that would also provide $350 million to fund an employee retention program until the plants planned closure in 2025. The bill added $128 million to the $222 million the CPUC approved for the retention program. The funds are offered as an incentive for highly skilled employees to continue to maintain the facility and its safe operation until its closure which is still years away.

“We are pleased with the bipartisan support that we received in both the Senate and the Assembly,” said Monning during a phone interview with Coast News. “We believe that we succeeded in making a strong case for the multiple interests primarily for checking the continued public safety and safe operation of Diablo until closure and during the decommissioning.”

The bill also addresses the risk of the rise of greenhouse emissions produced by power plants that will have to bridge the energy gap caused by Diablo’s retirement. The nuclear power station produces almost a tenth of the state’s power needs. RTO Insider reported such was the case when the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in Southern California closed in 2013 and fossil-fuel burning plants were brought online to compensate. The bill specifies that the closing of the plant cannot increase greenhouse gases in California.

According to PG&E, the plant produces 18,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually which is enough to power nearly 3 million Northern and Central California homes. PG&E states that 33 percent of the energy the company produces comes from renewable sources and 12 percent comes from hydropower plants.

Monning preferred not to speculate if the legislators had sufficient support to overrule a veto from Brown, instead said, “We are continuing to work with his office in providing all of our documentation and support.”

With the bill still waiting ratification by Brown’s signature, the Senator encourages the public and stakeholders to offer “respectful encouragement in underscoring the importance to the community and beyond the local community, beyond San Luis Obispo County.”

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