Climate Protection Missing from Diablo Canyon Draft Decision

A California administrative law judge’s proposed decision on the ground-breaking proposal to retire and replace Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is deeply flawed, and completely misses a golden opportunity to enhance clean energy and better protect Californians from the growing dangers of climate change.

Its key shortcoming is that it fails to include any actions to ensure that the plant will be fully replaced with greenhouse gas free resources. The judge’s proposed  decision not only rejects an initial investment in replacement resources, but also fails to commit the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to ensuring that the retirement of the mammoth nuclear plant will not result in an increase in carbon pollution.

The complete lack of responsibility for achieving this critical goal puts the proposed decision in direct conflict with California state policy. It should be emphasized, however, that the five-member Commission itself has yet to weigh in on the proposal, which is set for oral argument in San Francisco on November 28.

The proposed decision was issued in response to a landmark 2016 agreement among a diverse group of key stakeholders that called for closing the aging Diablo Canyon plant by 2025 and replacing its output with lower-cost emissions-free energy, including energy efficiency, solar, and wind power. The agreement also recommended significant support to communities and workers affected by the shutdown.

The proposed decision fails even to acknowledge, let alone discuss, the widely-supported recommendation to commit to replace all the output of Diablo Canyon with GHG-free resources. This stunning omission puts the proposed decision at direct odds with the commitment to climate action of Governor Jerry Brown and the legislature, which passed an extension of the state’s comprehensive climate program by a remarkable two-thirds majority just a few months ago.

The proposed decision also fails to approve an initial procurement of cost- effective energy efficiency resources as a modest down payment on the full amount needed to replace the output of Diablo Canyon. By failing to take any near-term action on replacement procurement, the proposed decision will impose greater costs on electricity consumers and make it more difficult to meet the state’s ambitious environmental objectives. 

Other aspects of the Joint Proposal also rejected in the proposed decision are significant labor and community protections that NRDC supports, including funding for worker retention and payments to communities affected by the shutdown, to ease adverse effects on essential local services. The agreement was backed by the communities involved and by the principal union for the plant’s workers, IBEW Local 1245, and the Coalition of Utility Employees (CUE).

NRDC will work with the other signatories to the Joint Proposal and other stakeholders to convince the five CPUC commissioners to rewrite the proposed decision so that it is consistent with state policy and the public interest.

About the Authors

Peter Miller

Director, Western Region, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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