SACRAMENTO -- The State Lands Commission took the first steps in allowing PG&E to close its two nuclear power plants near San Luis Obispo.
After a daylong public hearing, the commission voted to extend PG&E's lease of the power plant land for the next nine years without an environmental impact report on the promise that the utility would not extend its license.
This comes a week after a groundbreaking agreement between PG&E, key environmental groups and the union representing plant workers.
The agreement allows for an orderly closure process in which the power the plant produces will be replaced by renewable sources of energy. Workers will have time to find other jobs within PG&E while still operating the plant.
Under the agreement, the reactors at Diablo Canyon would run until 2025, allowing surrounding communities to adjust to the loss of a major employer as well as a key producer of energy.
Some environmental groups protested the closure saying nuclear energy is a better option for fighting global warming than burning natural gas and other fossil fuels if there are not enough renewable sources. They argued for the continued operation of the plant.
Many others who testified in Sacramento and in Morro Bay by way of a video protested the extension saying the plant was unsafe and needs to be closed sooner. They demanded an environmental impact report to establish the safety of the plant and the harm it might do to the ocean ecology and to residents exposed to radiation before any extension was granted.
But the Lands Commission decision must take into account the harm done to workers and the community with a quick closure. That includes the immediate loss of property taxes paid by PG&E and the effect that it would have on the price of energy and the environment if there was less time to find replacement energy from renewable resources.
The California Public Utilities Commission must also approve the plan and PG&E says there will be more opportunities for public input before the proposal is considered by the PUC.