California proposes to extend the life of the last nuclear power plant at a cost of $1.4 billion

The proposed legislation would direct the California Public Utilities Commission to set a new closing date of Oct. 31, 2029 for one entity and Oct. 31, 2030 for the other, according to the governor’s office. Before 2026, regulators could consider an extension, but not beyond October 31, 2035.

The bill would create an exemption from state regulations to allow operators to maintain operations at the facility without conducting extensive engineering analysis of the environmental effects.

Extending the life of the nuclear power plant would come at a price. Pacific Gas & Electric, which operates the plant, applied to the US Department of Energy’s $6 billion program to keep nuclear power plants operating — though it’s unclear how much will be granted or when. The language proposed by Newsom’s office this week would allow the state to give PG&E a $1.4 billion forgivable loan to cover relicensing costs. Any expansion would also require approvals from federal, state and local regulatory entities, the governor’s office said.

PG&E said it is prepared to keep the plant running. “We are proud of the role that DCPP plays in our state and we stand ready to support should there be a change in state policy to help ensure grid reliability for our customers and all Californians at the lowest possible price,” the utility said. in a statement.

Newsom in recent weeks has been praised for his calls for bold action on climate change, which includes accelerating the state’s carbon neutrality goals and transitioning to renewable energy. But news of this proposed expansion to the Diablo Canyon Power Plant angered environmentalists, who blasted the governor for suggesting the state circumvent its environmental protection laws to keep the plant operating.

Newsom drew criticism this year for proposing legislation that would allow the state to buy more fossil fuel-powered electricity in an emergency. Lawmakers, some of them reluctantly, passed the measure with the hope that the state would use its remaining $3.8 billion in the energy budget for more ambitious climate action.

A joint statement from Environment California, Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council said lawmakers should reject Newsom’s new bill “immediately.”

“The findings used to justify these extraordinary provisions include no citations to published studies by any California regulator or agency recommending an additional life extension for Diablo Canyon because there are none,” the statement said. “With Governor Newsom and the Legislature working to appropriate climate budget funds and advance ambitious climate legislation in the waning days of the legislative session, this proposal is a dangerous and costly distraction.”

The governor’s communications director, Erin Mellon, said the state is focused on maintaining energy reliability while accelerating efforts to combat climate change.

“The governor supports keeping all options on the table as we build our plan to ensure reliable energy this summer and beyond,” Mellon said in a statement. “This includes considering a limited expansion of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, which remains an important resource as we move away from fossil fuel generation to greater amounts of clean energy with the goal of achieving 100 percent clean electric retail sales by 2045.”

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