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State leaders, Diablo Canyon workers speak out on power plant closure impact report

Posted at 6:30 PM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 22:02:01-04

State leaders met in San Luis Obispo Friday to get a closer look at the economic impact that comes with the closure of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.

Senator Bill Monning, Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham and San Luis Obispo County leaders listened to UC Berkeley researchers as they broke down the report.

Those researchers say the county has a leg up when it comes to planning for the decommissioning unlike the surprise closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in San Diego County.

However, survey results showed that community members are mainly worried about the loss of jobs, loss of tax revenue and economic uncertainty.

Researchers estimate the closure will result in a hit to the local economy of nearly $801 million per year.

That number is smaller than previously expected. Still, much uncertainty remains.

“If we can’t replace Diablo Canyon with emission-free energy then I would like to see an impact and assessment on the health of people from increased emissions,” said Heather Madison, Diablo Canyon Power Plant employee and co-founder of Mothers for Nuclear.

As a reactor operator, Madison worries decommissioning jobs will not be of the same caliber as her current position.

“I don’t want to help tear apart the plant and that is not the same kind of job as the technical, knowledge-based work that I was trained to do,” Madison said.

Assemblyman Cunningham is also concerned for the loss of head-of-household jobs.

“We have to have a regional plan to make sure we are replacing jobs in tech, in tourism, in healthcare, in all sectors and we need to replace that power as well,” Cunningham said.

The assemblyman says he and his team are collaborating with the county, state and federal agencies to potentially plan a 2-gigawatt offshore wind farm off the coast of Morro Bay.

He says it would produce almost as much power as Diablo Canyon.

“We don’t have that much time and if we don’t achieve that goal and we aren’t intelligent enough about it, then you are going to see a spike in electricity prices,” Cunningham said. “We already pay the highest electricity prices in the country.”

Senator Bill Monning co-sponsored SB 1090, a California law that provides the area with $400 million in mitigation funds.

A majority of it is meant to give current workers an incentive to stay with $85 million set aside as financial relief for schools.

“It helps pave the way for the next seven years to minimize those impacts and plan for the post-Diablo economy,” Senator Monning said.

He says he expects those funds will be protected regardless of PG&E’s bankruptcy <>.

“I am confident the commitments to the safe operation of Diablo and safe decommission will remain in place no matter what the organization may be,” Monning said.

A PG&E spokesperson says the utility company partnered with labor, government, community and environmental groups to map out the impact of the plant closure.

“The report underscores the importance of making informed decisions that will help prepare our community for the future closure of Diablo Canyon, and we appreciate the opportunity to continue this important conversation,” said Suzanne Hosn, a PG&E spokesperson in a statement to KSBY. “We will continue to partner with our elected officials, local residents and stakeholders to work toward a successful future transition for this community and for our employees.”

Researchers say the housing market is not expected to see long term negative impacts, but stakeholders caution about an affordability gap.

The authors of the report concluded the county will likely not go into a recession or see negative growth, instead continue to see growth, but at a slower rate.

“Our economy, fortunately, is not wholly dependent on Diablo Canyon,” Monning said. “It’s been the backbone of the community, but we are also not 100% dependent on its operation.”

SB 1090 requires those researchers to provide recommendations which will come after the public comment period.

The public comment period ends on July 25th.

You can read the full report here.