Diablo deal highlights importance of regional planning and advocacy

Diablo Canyon

$160 million for Diablo Canyon conservation and economic development.

That’s what collaborative community planning and coordinated regional advocacy secured in the bi-partisan, near-unanimous deal passed by the state legislature last night to keep the power plant open until 2030.

The legislation, SB-846, also commits $1 billion to accelerate deployment of clean energy resources, increase energy reliability and assist ratepayers under a new Clean Energy Reliability Investment Plan.

“This is a huge win for the Central Coast and shows what speaking loudly with a united voice can accomplish in state and national decisions. This money has the potential to realize the broadly adopted community vision for the region’s post-Diablo future: preserving the 12,000 acres of pristine lands while transforming the plant into a future-oriented engine of economic growth and innovation.” — REACH President/CEO Melissa James

As the possibility of extending Diablo operations gained momentum, REACH and our regional partners at the city, county and state levels pressed not just for safety and land conservation but also for a clear, committed path to the state’s renewable energy goals, including no delays in planned offshore wind development and support for the community vision of a Cal Poly-led clean-tech innovation park as Diablo’s next chapter.

 

Sen. John Laird on the CA Senate floow“I weighed up the issues that needed to be addressed in this bill, and maybe a little to my amazement, almost every single one is addressed. Those concerns have shaped this bill.” — Sen. John Laird, during Senate floor debate

 

Follow-up is needed on several fronts, Laird said, but the bill met the threshold of addressing local concerns and priorities, kickstarting renewable energy investment and ensuring the onramp to offshore wind power projected to come online around 2030. See his full statement here.

Jordan Cunningham on assembly floor“Diablo Canyon produces nearly 10% of our state’s electricity. It’s baseload power, it’s carbon free, it employs thousands of local residents — and we desperately need it to keep the lights on in California. I am proud of and grateful to my colleagues for their support on this absolutely critical measure. After years of hard work, Diablo Canyon’s importance to our state’s residents has finally been recognized.” — Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, the bill’s principal coauthor

What’s next: The deal paves the way for plant operator PG&E to pursue the regulatory approvals needed to continue operations beyond its planned 2025 closure and decommissioning. The utility is also expected to apply for assistance under a $6 billion federal program to keep nuclear plants operational, money that would be expected to pay back the $1.4 billion the state is laying out under the deal. That deadline is Tuesday.

About that $160 million: The legislation provides $10 million in 2023-24 and $150 million in 2024-25 for conservation, environmental enhancements and access to the Diablo Lands and economic development consistent with decommissioning efforts. The Natural Resources Agency, working with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), will sign off on a plan for the money by March 2023.

The full local impact: Diablo Canyon has served as an electricity and economic powerhouse and the region’s largest private-sector employer for decades. Keeping it running through 2030 would retain the sizable Diablo Canyon job base, amounting to $225 million in annual payroll plus another 1,500 or so contractor jobs. SB 846 also:

  • Protects the $85 million paid to local jurisdictions under the original settlement plan (ie, does not require return of those funds)
  • Requires PG&E and all state agencies to consult and work collaboratively with tribal representatives in matters related to the land
  • Extends employee retention incentives through the life of the plant

“Our legislators have brokered a sound deal that will help the state meet its clean energy goals while also protecting and supporting local cities, the workforce and community plans for a post-Diablo future.” — REACH Board Chair Clint Pearce

Pull back: In the closing days of the session, lawmakers also passed $54 billion for aggressive new climate action, including steeper emission reduction targets, restrictions on oil and gas drilling and measures related to electric vehicles and carbon capture, among others.

Included is $45 million for an offshore wind infrastructure improvement program, building on the $1 million recently passed for SLO County to advance waterfront infrastructure planning to support the development of the 376 square mile wind energy area off the coast of Morro Bay that is slated for lease auction this year.

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