The Tribune | March 16, 2018 –
San Luis Obispo County might get that $85 million Diablo Canyon closure settlement after all.
State Sen. Bill Monning and Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham announced co-authored legislation Friday that would give San Luis Obispo County the full $85 million settlement for economic mitigation initially proposed by PG&E in its plans to shutter the nuclear power plant by 2025.
“We have an opportunity with SB 1090 to ensure a smooth transition to a post-Diablo future,” Cunningham said. “SB 1090 will protect our schools, our people, it will protect our economy and it it will safeguard critical assets.”
Both Central Coast lawmakers noted that it will be an uphill battle convincing other legislators that the hyper-local bill is necessary.
“Our challenge is to move this message from something that is just intended to help the residents of San Luis Obispo County and the immediate region, that this is statewide legislation to protect all Californians, ” Monning said.
Cunningham added: “This will not be an easy bill.”
PG&E’s application to close the state’s last nuclear power plant was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in January, but the Commission voted against the settlement, saying it did not feel it had the legislative authority to charge ratepayers for the deal.
The bill would direct the CPUC to approve the settlement, as well as PG&E’s full $350 million proposed employee retention and retraining program. (The Commission approved a lesser amount — $222 million — for the employee program.)
The settlement would help support the region through what promises to be a huge economic shift once the plant closes.
Diablo Canyon has an estimated $1 billion impact on the local economy, and is the county’s largest private industry employer with nearly 1,500 workers.
PG&E, which operates the plant, is also the largest taxpayer in the county, representing about 5.88 percent of the county’s total budget, according to documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission.
To help mitigate the huge impact, PG&E promised $75 million to offset property tax losses by the school district, county and 69 other special districts and $10 million for economic development efforts in the county and cities.
PG&E spokesman Blair Jones said the company was “grateful for Senator Monning’s and Assemblyman Cunningham’s leadership and the attention they are placing on helping California meet its clean energy goals.”
“This is, and will continue to be, an important issue for our state, customers, employees and the San Luis Obispo County region,” Jones said. “The Diablo Canyon joint proposal represented a significant milestone in the planning to meet California’s bold clean energy vision and it’s important to ensure that the remaining goals of this transition strategy are enacted.”
San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon, representing the coalition of local cities, also thanked the legislators for their hard work on the bill.
“San Luis Obispo County has and will continue to shoulder the risks of having a nuclear power plant in our community, and we appreciate so much the efforts of both Senator Monning and Assemblyman Cunningham to put forth a bill that comprehensively addresses the complex challenges shuttering a major nuclear power generating facility,” she said.
One of the chief concerns was San Luis Coastal Unified School District, where Diablo Canyon property taxes have accounted for roughly 11 percent of its annual budget. Without that money, administrators have said cost cutting looms, such as increasing class sizes, eliminating programs or even closing schools.
Monning and Cunningham said in a news release that the bill would act as a “bridge to allow local schools to manage the loss of revenue.”
San Luis Coastal Unified School District Superintendent Eric Prater said Friday that the bill was essential to maintaining important school services.
“SB 1090 gives us time to manage,” he said. “We need a bridge, a longer runway to make needed changes.”
San Luis Obispo County Economic Vitality Corporation President and CEO Michael Manchak applauded the announcement Friday, saying the bill would play a “very important role” in maintaining a strong local economy.
“Senator Monning and Assemblyman Cunningham are demonstrating strong leadership in supporting our communities and local economy by proposing this important legislation that may provide vital resources to the region to mitigate the impacts caused by the future closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant,“ he said.
The bill was introduced by Monning on Feb. 12; it was amended in the Senate on Thursday and referred back to the Committee on Rules for a vote. After that, it will head to the senate Energy Committee before moving to the Assembly to go through the same process.