California nuclear expansion challenged in legislative proposal

Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A proposal released Friday by California Democratic lawmakers would reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to extend the life of the state’s last operating nuclear plant — and instead spend more Billion Dollars to Accelerate the Development of Renewable Energy, New Transmission and Storage Lines to Keep Power Reliable in an Age of Climate Change.

The legislative plan obtained by The Associated Press reveals growing tension between the Democratic governor and some members of his own party over a politically volatile issue.

The breach came to light a week after Newsom offered to give plant operator Pacific Gas & Electric a forgivable loan of up to $1.4 billion as part of a plan to maintain the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in operation beyond its planned shutdown by 2025.

Newsom argued that as warmer temperatures increase demand for electricity, double-dome reactors along the coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco would provide a needed buffer against blackouts, as the State Switches to Solar, Wind and Other Renewable Energy. sources of energy.

The legislative plan abandons the idea of ​​keeping decades-old reactors in operation. Instead, it would channel Newsom’s proposed $1.4 billion for PG&E to accelerate alternative carbon-free power sources and new transmission lines to get electricity to customers.

The legislative plan included a series of related but separate proposals to invest more than $1 billion to install energy-efficient cooling and lighting for low-income Californians at no cost to eligible residents. It would also place $900 million in an “electricity subscriber relief fund” to provide bill credits to offset subscriber costs. Another $900 million would go to funding solar and storage systems for low-income households, among other programs.

The dispute over Diablo Canyon reveals deep concern among some lawmakers that Newsom wants a stark and complex reversal in state energy policy with less than two weeks remaining in the legislative session, which ends for the year at the end of August.

Newsom’s proposal also came with many unanswered questions and concerns, including how state taxpayers might be affected, the risk of circumventing environmental rules, and whether continuing to power the reactors for years to come could crowd out wind and other renewables that are expected to start production in the future.

It was not immediately clear to what extent the Democratic alternative was supported in the Legislative Assembly.

Newsom’s proposal to reverse course has reignited a decades-long struggle over earthquake safety – several earthquake faults lie near the nuclear power plant, with one fault 650 yards (594 meters) from the reactors. Critics said Newsom’s plan for the plant undermines environmental safeguards while delivering a huge financial giveaway to the investor-owned utility.

Newsom spokesman Anthony York said the governor “wants California to move faster to meet our climate goals, while ensuring we can keep the lights on and transition safely to clean energy. “.

York said the proposal came from the state Assembly and “feels like fantasy and pixie dust, and reflects a lack of vision and a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the climate problem.”

The office of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon declined to comment.

The governor’s belated proposal amounts to an attempt to unravel a complex 2016 deal between PG&E, environmentalists and plant workers’ unions to shut down the reactors by 2025, which Newsom supported at the time as a lieutenant. -governor. The joint decision was also approved by California utility regulators, the legislature and then-Democrat Governor Jerry Brown.

With the state’s legislative session ending for the year at the end of the month, there is little time left to find a compromise on a hugely complex issue. PG&E CEO Patricia “Patti” Poppe told investors on a call last month that state legislation would need to be signed by Newsom by September to pave the way for a reversal of course.

PG&E is also expected to obtain a new operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the plant beyond the scheduled 2025.

In a statement, the utility said it was aware of ongoing discussions to potentially extend Diablo Canyon’s lifespan and that PG&E stands ready “in the event of a change in state policy.”