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State utility regulators hear final oral arguments on planned Diablo Canyon closure

The Diablo Canyon Power Plant produces about 9% of the state's energy supply.
Diablo Canyon Power Plant near Avila Beach.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the state agency that regulates utility companies held a public hearing on San Luis Obispo County's Diablo Canyon Power Plant. Four California Public Utilities Commissioners (CPUC) joined administrative law judge Peter V. Allen to hear final oral arguments in Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PG&E) request to retire California's last nuclear power plant.

Spokespersons from 21 different organizations and municipalities - and two from the San Luis Coastal Unified School District - each had eight minutes to contribute testimony in favor or against Judge Allen’s preliminary ruling issued on November 8.

In that ruling, Allen approved PG&E’s request to close the plant, and allows the company to increase customer rates enough to recover over $190 million dollars to pay for closure costs: $160.5 million to pay PG&E salaries over the next eight years, $11.3 million to retrain workers and $18.6 million for license renewal costs.

However, the judge rejected PG&E’s request to charge customers even more to pay $85 million to San Luis Obispo County, several cities, a school district, labor unions and environmental groups. That agreement is called the Community Impacts Mitigation Program, or CIMP.

“Having ratepayers take the place of taxpayers in paying for government services is not reasonable, and should not be approved,” California Public Utilities Commission Judge Peter V. Allen wrote in his proposed decision.

Instead, he ruled the joint agreement would need legislative authorization.

Credit Courtesy of CPUC webcast
San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick speaking at Tuesday's hearing in San Francisco.

San Luis Obispo’s city attorney Christine Dietrick was at the hearing in San Francisco. Dietrick spoke about the proposed multimillion dollar CIMP, intended to make up for lost property taxes and jobs when the plant closes.

“The [Community Impacts Mitigation Program] in its current form specifically resolves an adversarial dispute between PG&E and the original joint parties on the one side, and the coalition and our community, county and school district partners on the other,” Dietrick said to Judge Allen and Commissioners Picker, Peterman, Randolph and Rechtschaffen. “The coalition has the broad support of six local city councils, and the approximately 125,000 residents and ratepayers that they represent. And if you think that in and of itself isn't a feat, I would urge you to reconsider.”

Attorney Megan Somogyi spoke on behalf of San Luis Obispo County.

“The proposed decision improperly questions the fairness of the community settlement... to the entire community. In doing so, the proposed decision overlooks the record of this proceeding which demonstrates unequivocally that the settlement is, in fact, fair to the community,” Somogyi said. “The $75 million dollars for essential services will go to every single taxing jurisdiction and department in the county, whose budget will be reduced as a result of Diablo Canyon's closure.”

According to CPUC staff, Tuesday’s final oral argument hearing provided a way stakeholders could try and bolster or poke holes in Judge Allen’s proposed decision. Next, his decision goes for a vote by the complete five-member commission. That vote is scheduled for the CPUC’s December 14 meeting.

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