home Existing Fleet, U Nuclear options are still on the table

Nuclear options are still on the table

THE BUZZ: Lawmakers were cutting it a little close last night as they hurried to get bills into print before the 72-hour deadline. They’ve had weeks to make a deal, but, hey, sometimes work is best done under pressure, right?

We’ve got a slew of new legislation to dig into, including 13 bills that are up in the Senate Budget Committee at 9 a.m. this morning, but first, the big ticket item.

A bill to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant made it into print around 8 p.m. last night. Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) is the principal co-author of Senate Bill 846 with state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). The measure would allow the plant to keep operating past its current retirement date of 2025.

It’s similar to the proposal Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration floated a few weeks ago, with one major difference: The governor’s plan had included the option of keeping the plant open until 2035. Some legislators, however, don’t seem to think another decade is a good idea. They say the “stopgap measure” won’t be needed for more than five years.

“… [S]eeking to extend the Diablo Canyon powerplant’s operations for a renewed license term is prudent, cost effective, and in the best interests of all California electricity customers,” the bill states.

Like Newsom’s plan, the bill would also allow the state to give up to $1.4 billion in forgivable loans to Pacific Gas & Electric to facilitate the extension. Keep in mind that PG&E also needs to get federal approval to extend operations, and is expected to apply for federal grant money to do just that in the next week or so.

At the heart of this debate is grid reliability. Diablo Canyon provides nearly 10 percent of the state’s electricity and does so without releasing greenhouse gas (though many environmental advocates say the use of seawater for once-through cooling is harmful to marine life). The administration argues that the state needs to keep the plant online as more fossil fuel power sources go into retirement and the procurement of clean energy continues to lag.

Some Democrats have voiced concerns that the extension of Diablo would delay California’s transition to green technologies. Part of this new bill appears to recognize those worries: “During the time the Diablo Canyon powerplant’s operations are extended, the state will continue to act with urgency to bring clean replacement energy online to support reliability and achieve California’s landmark climate goals.”

As POLITICO’s Camille von Kaenel reported last night, this bill is just one of several energy-related pieces of legislation that make up a larger climate change policy. Also dropped last night: Senate Bill 905, which would direct the Air Resources Board to develop rules for carbon capture, utilization and storage. SB 905 is tied to Assembly Bill 1279, which would codify the goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 as well as a reduction of greenhouse gasses of at least 85 percent below the 1990 levels by the same year.

The budget released Sunday night also came with an energy trailer bill, Senate Bill 126, that includes billions in additional spending.

Source: Politico