Partnering for the Future of Diablo Canyon

Leaders from federal, state and county government, Cal Poly, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash and the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council today announced a new partnership under the coordination of REACH to pursue future use opportunities at Diablo Canyon.

The shared vision, outlined in a new memorandum of understanding, embraces job creation and clean energy innovation at the 600-acre industrial Parcel P site while honoring the complementary efforts to preserve the unique natural resources and cultural heritage of the surrounding 12,000 acres of Diablo Lands.

REACH is also partnering with more than 40 diverse community groups and individuals in the Diablo Canyon Lands Working Group, which is creating a conservation framework for the future ownership and uses of the Diablo Canyon Lands, which aims at assuring in-perpetuity conservation and sustainable public access to those lands, consistent with the strategic vision of the Diablo Canyon Decommissioning Engagement Panel, the 2000 San Luis Obispo County Dream Initiative, and the state Tribal Land Transfer Policy.

“We have an urgent, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the next era for Diablo Canyon and become a leader in clean energy research and development, and this partnership brings all the right parties to the table to ensure positive outcomes for the whole community,” REACH President & CEO Melissa James said.

“The future of Diablo Canyon is one of the most pressing issues facing SLO County, even more now with the job losses and economic impacts of Covid-19,” SLO County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynn Compton said.

“Collaboration between the public, private and nonprofit sectors is essential to further the goals of growing new head-of-household jobs, supporting local business and building energy and water resilience.”

The County will be playing a lead role in the environmental review of plant owner PG&E’s decommissioning plan under the California Environmental Quality Act as well as in future land use decisions. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved joining the partnership under the MOU.

“Diablo Canyon has been an economic powerhouse in our community for decades and through this coordinated effort we will continue that tradition by creating new opportunities for future generations on the Central Coast,” said SLO County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, whose 3rd District encompasses Diablo Canyon. “I’m excited to work together to take this vision to state agencies, legislators and industry partners to invite more participation and investment into our community.”

The region’s state and federal elected officials have pledged to work with government agencies to ensure safe and timely decommissioning of the power plant and spur economic development in the region.

“As our community works together to mitigate the economic impacts of Diablo’s closure, I am committed to helping secure the Central Coast’s dominance as a hub for renewable energy development,” U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal said.

“California’s ambitious renewable energy goals and shifting global views of fossil fuels are drastically reshaping the energy landscape,” Sen. John Laird said. “We have the opportunity at Diablo to create future-oriented jobs and also drive the state’s transition to a cleaner economy.”

“Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is a local economic driver, generating millions in local tax revenue and responsible for roughly 1,500 head-of-household jobs. When we passed SB 1090 in 2018, we did so to protect Diablo employees and ensure that the plant would be able to safely operate through 2025,” said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham. “As we look to the future, it is critical that our local repurposing plan focuses on the need to diversify the local economy and create more high-paying jobs for Central Coast  residents. Our region — and those who call it home — deserves nothing less.”

Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong said: “Cal Poly has a long history of driving innovation through our Learn by Doing approach and industry partnerships, and this vision lays the groundwork for advancing global energy sustainability in our own backyard.”

“Part of that vision is a community workforce agreement that ensures that local workers and businesses are utilized to the maximum extent possible during the lengthy decommissioning process,” said the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council’s Joshua Medrano. “If we want this region to remain a key player in the state’s energy sector, we have to maintain and grow a highly skilled workforce and specialty training programs.”

The parallel effort to permanently protect the Diablo Canyon Lands surrounding the Parcel P power plant site, stretching from Montaña de Oro State Park to Avila Beach, kicked off in August 2020 with a partnership between the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash and The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, which Cal Poly joined this week. Both the Chumash and The Land Conservancy joined the Parcel P partnership to support and provide input on the effort to redevelop the power plant site to benefit the region.

“On behalf of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini Northern Chumash Tribe of San Luis Obispo County and Region, we welcome the opportunity to be a member of this collaboration,” said Scott Lathrop, President of ytt Northern Chumash Nonprofit. “Diablo Canyon Power Plant is located on the Pecho Coast. As the true descendants of the Pecho Coast, we are responsible for the stewardship of these lands and ensuring future uses support tribal economic sustainability and protection of cultural and natural resources.”

“Working together, I am confident we can protect the Pecho Coast’s fragile coastal habitats, beautiful oak woodlands and stunning coastal terraces and mountains for generations to come, while also repurposing the power plant facility for community and economic benefit,” said The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County Executive Director Kaila Dettman. “We are excited to participate in and support this partnership.”

REACH VP Andrew Hackleman described the partnership as similar to the one forged in August 2020 to cultivate a commercial space hub surrounding Vandenberg Air Force Base.

“That effort is already paying early dividends, and this partnership holds equal promise for championing the social, cultural, environmental and economic interests of Central Coast residents,” Hackleman said. “REACH was founded in the wake of the Diablo closure announcement, and navigating the challenges and seizing opportunities around that remains a core focus of our work.”

Jim Hamilton, executive director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the process, hailed the collaboration by a broad coalition of stakeholders as the best path forward.

“Decommissioning is a very complex undertaking involving many moving parts and lots of uncertainty,” Hamilton said. “At the same time, there is the potential for communities to benefit as part of the process. Realizing beneficial outcomes and avoiding the economic setbacks many communities have suffered takes sustained, proactive engagement, and the Nuclear Decommissioning Collaborative is eager to support this partnership and the community in the months and years ahead.”