Public sentiment toward PG&E’s plan to shutter Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant seems to have shifted in the past year to a begrudging acceptance, based on comments at a California Public Utilities Commission meeting Thursday afternoon.
A large crowd filled the Ludwick Community Center in San Luis Obispo for the first of two meetings Thursday to gather public input into PG&E’s proposal to not renew licenses on its two reactors when they expire in 2024 and 2025.
When the utility company first announced its plans in June 2016, many in the community said they were shocked by the news and worried about the impact a large-scale closure would have on the local economy.
The vast majority of the speakers at the early meeting said they now support the joint proposal.
Contractor Tyler Scheidt noted the importance of the proposed $350 million employee retention and retraining program, echoing other similar comments.
“It is unfortunate the plant will be closing, (but) I feel the joint proposal will be the key to retaining members throughout its life, ensuring plant safety through the remainder of its operations and ensuring workers will have other career options when the doors do shut,” Scheidt said.
“I am thankful for all the plant has had to offer and am hopeful the proposal can be the light at the end of the tunnel for anyone involved.”
Numerous public officials were in attendance to vocally support the proposed settlement to local cities, the county and other nearby agencies that will pay between $122.5 and $147.5 million to offset lost property taxes, spur economic development and bolster local emergency planning.
In its original application, PG&E proposed paying $49.5 million to local agencies, but that amount increased following pushback from a coalition of six local cities, the county and San Luis Coastal Unified School District. They claimed the utility wasn’t adequately taking into account the potential $1 billion economic impact of the closure.
“Many of our economic development groups are working together — the cities the county, special districts, the schools — certainly we are working together to be able to absorb as best we can the obvious financial blow that will occur from this,” San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill said.
“But the agreement itself, the time, the money, give us the ability to be able to get to a place where we think we can do a pretty good job, and it won’t be as problematic as something immediate would be.”
Other speakers were in support of the closure but called for the plant to close sooner in 2019 because of safety concerns.
“The sooner we leave, the better, because the seismic threat continues,” said Elizabeth Bruce, a member of San Luis Obispo Mother’s for Peace.
This was the last opportunity for the public to participate before administrative judge Peter Allen issues his ruling on PG&E’s application. After Allen rules, it will go before the CPUC for final consideration.
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