SLO County intervenes in state proceedings over Diablo Canyon closure

Jan 18, 2019

San Luis Obispo County has officially joined state proceedings related to the closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. The state's last nuclear power plant, located on the county's coast, is set to shutter in 2025. On Thursday, the county filed to intervene in the application of PG&E—the plant's owner—in a case currently before the California Public Utilities Commission [CPUC]. To find out what that means, KCBX News spoke with Rita Neal, San Luis Obispo County Counsel.

TYLER PRATT, KCBX News: Can you briefly explain what the PG&E application is and what are these proceedings?

RITA NEAL, SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY COUNSEL: The application is filed in order for the California Public Utilities Commission to approve what's called the decommissioning plan of the Diablo Canyon plant, and the estimated costs of what it's going to cost to decommission. On Tuesday of this week, our board of supervisors authorized the county to intervene as a party in that proceeding so that we could comment on their plan; on how the decommissioning will impact the community. So that's what we have filed.

PRATT: And what does the county want?

NEAL: The county doesn't oppose the decommissioning plan, and the county doesn't have a comment about the costs of the decommissioning plan. The concerns that the county has is that the application doesn't have sufficient detail or assurances related to the decommissioning process and the disposition of the Diablo Canyon land, [PG&E's] assets and their infrastructure. That's our first concern. Our second concern is that their application identifies that they plan to shutter the desalination plant that exists at Diablo Canyon, and the county has always taken the position that there should be discussion about retaining that plant and providing for future water needs for the county.

PRATT: Is it normal for a county to get involved in these type of proceedings?

NEAL: It's normal in this circumstance because we actually have the plant [heading towards] closure, and Diablo Canyon has been a huge part of this community for so many years. So we were part of the proceeding—the closure proceeding—and there was a lot of discussion during the closure proceeding and the settlement talks that the county had with PG&E that there would be a number of issues to be addressed during decommissioning, particularly the future use of the property.

PRATT: Things admittedly may get a little bit more complicated moving forward. PG&E recently announced that it plans to file for bankruptcy at the end of the month, but part of its agreement to close Diablo is it's supposed to pay SLO County $85 million to mitigate the economic impact of its shutdown. So how might this bankruptcy affect that?

NEAL: Well, our position at this point is that the bankruptcy is not going to, nor should it, affect the $85 million dollar payment that PG&E has agreed to make to the county. The reason for that is, although that was a settlement, that $85 million and the funding for that money was ultimately approved by the state legislature in Senate Bill 1090. So, because now that it's part of state law, we don't believe that the funding requirement can be discharged in the bankruptcy court.

PRATT: Does the county have any plan to jump into those bankruptcy proceedings?

NEAL: At this point, because PG&E has simply filed its intent to file bankruptcy, we don't know what the actual filing will look like. So as soon as we can see that actual filing, analyze what if any impacts it will have on the county—whether we'll have any impacts during the decommissioning process—at that point in time we'll be able to make a decision as to whether the county needs to intervene in the bankruptcy proceedings or not.