Background on Legal Fight to Save Diablo Canyon

During the past six years, Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) has been the lead author, researcher, advocate or editor of thousands of pages of written public or legal advocacy on behalf of the continued safe operation of Diablo Canyon.

CGNP has reviewed the impacts on climate, grid reliability, access to clean energy, federal and state authorities’ responsibility for ensuring that proper decisions are being made on behalf of energy ratepayers for most of the last decade. Not only are there considerable risks and costs to the direction being taken by the California Public Utility Commission, but there is great damage not being properly evaluated.  Dr. Gene Nelson, of CGNP, discusses the various harms associated with California’s utilities pursuing a massive build-out of solar and wind generation since 2010 and prematurely shuttering reliable baseload generators—such as San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS, taken offline in January, 2012) and Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP, slated to be taken offline in 2024 and 2025). Below are some of the issues he has pursued in his efforts.

Review of Issues Raised by CGNP

Exemptions layered in exemptions provide a veneer of cover to this surreptitious plan

(Click to download the PDF.)

As early as August 2021, Dr. Gene Nelson was raising the alarm regarding the various maneuvers being deployed by the CPUC to find a way to fulfill the state’s need for an enormous amount of power that was at risk of being lost with the planned closure of Diablo Canyon.  In this Tribune article comment, Is California on track to meet clean energy goals without Diablo Canyon? It’s doubtful, Dr. Nelson laid out the case that the apparent replacement scheme that was emerging was a nefarious one, involving coal from PacifiCorp. Even while the CPUS was claiming that the power from Diablo Canyon would be replaced by clean energy, the reality was far from showing that there would be anywhere near enough new clean energy coming online to meet the lost clean power being shut down.

Then between August of 2021 and April of 2022, more research was done that better connected the dots. At the same time, Dr. Nelson succeeded in getting these findings posted to the public not just as a comment on another article but as an April 5 OpEd in the Capitol Weekly, entitled “Closing Diablo Canyon spurs fears over replacement power.” As soon as this OpEd appeared, various individuals involved with the CPUC began to internally dismiss the findings as a mere “opinion” piece.

However, CGNP had also managed to have these findings filed with the CPUC in a series of formal filings responding to the CPUC’s own June 24th, 2021 Procurement Order, R2005003, and proceedings related to that in which “Unspecified Imports” appeared twice on page 16.  These included (among many other related filings):
1. Comments of Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. in Response to the Proposed Decision of ALJ Fitch Mailed December 22, 2021
2. Reply Comments of CGNP to replies about the above doc
3.  Evidence that Criteria Pollutants were not included from the “Unspecified Imports” by the CPUC in its Assumptions, and

4. The CPUC’s Inclusion of 5000MW of “Unspecified Imports” in its projected procurement plan.

These documents provided substantial incriminating evidence that, regardless of the CPUC’s assertions, that they were relying on a pair of deceptive CPUC decisions, permitting the emissions from unspecified imports to be exempted from CPUC’s emissions reports. Thus, the damage had been done and the CPUC, CAISO, the CEC and the Governor’s office were effectively on notice that the public would find out that the plan was going to enable Berkshire Hathaway’s subsidiary, PacifiCorp, to provide imported dirty power from coal that the CPUC would NOT have to include in its accounting of state emissions from its procured generation.

The Right to Clean Air

CGNP intervened with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), with a complaint regarding the impropriety of CPUC agreeing to shut down PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant in 2024 and 2025 – and Entergy’s Indian Point Energy Center in 2021. The argument involved the 1971 California Appellate Court Decision which established that the California Public Utilities Commission cannot over-rule the denial of a permit for a fossil-fired power plant by the Orange County, California Air Pollution Control District. The public’s interest in minimizing air pollution is a more significant interest than that of an investor-owned utility in constructing a new power plant by Southern California Edison, allegedly to prevent blackouts.
Some of the rationale for the California appellate case, as written in conjunction with Attorney Mike Gatto, was based on the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1963 and its amendments. Environmental justice is one of the issues addressed by the CAA. Electric power generation by fossil fuels is the biggest stationary source of toxic air pollutants and is subject to EPA regulation.

The complaint that CGNP has pursued with the FERC focuses on California public safety – their interest in clean air. Just as in the 1971 case, the CPUC cannot be relied on to protect the public’s interest. The federal authority under the CAA is a more compelling public interest. This is a federal matter as the increased in-state pollution will cross state lines. The Court of Appeal rejected the CGNP arguments.

The CGNP’s 2018 Appeal from the CPUC Decision of 18-01-022 is attached.

The Risks from Covid 19

CGNP reached out to San Luis Obispo supervisors and PG&E contacts regarding the role that Diablo Canyon plays in keeping pollutants out of the air. A June 30, 2020 Politico news article about the severity of COVID-19 in some more polluted California counties included a supporting chart from the California Department of Public Health.

The argument was that San Luis Obispo County’s clean air – which is kept clean by the abundant zero-emission power from Diablo Canyon Power Plant is one of the factors helping keep the severity of Covid-19 cases down. Each year Diablo Canyon Power Plant safely and reliably produces the equivalent of more than five (5) Hoover Dams of electricity – without emitting any air pollution.

Over-dependence on Natural Gas

CGNP filed a new motion before the CPUC arguing that California’s ongoing power crisis was tied to a dangerous overdependency on natural gas. They were able to showcase a set of daily California Independent System Operator (CAISO) charts showing power demand and supply by source for each day in August, 2020, and the risks to the supply of gas in response to an Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling seeking comments for CPUC natural gas reliability proceeding R2001007 on nin questions asked by the court.

In addition to the explosion risks posed by an aging natural gas infrastructure, the efforts by the natural gas industry to “tout the ‘complementarity’ of gas to both solar and wind by natural gas suppliers in an effort to burnish the public’s perception of natural gas, CGNP argued that while some parties in the proceeding have alluded to a future with a decreased reliance on natural gas as an energy source in California, natural gas is the dominant dispatchable one. Given recent state energy policy changes focused on eliminating emissions, with the premature closure of Diablo Canyon, natural gas will be poised after 2025 to achieve market dominance as the energy source supplying about 70% of California’s dispatchable in-state generation. 70% is a threshold that should trigger antitrust concerns by regulators, particularly in an era of increasing drought, reducing the available hydropower, and heat waves, where loss of power would result in considerable deaths.

Coastal Commission Discrimination against Nuclear

Four aging natural gas plants scheduled to retire in December 2020 were allowed to keep operating because of an exemption given to them by the California Water Resources Control Board. In response to reports of California’s anticipated capacity shortfall, the four members of the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously to reverse a prior board decision ordering the once-through-cooling (OTC) plants to cease operations. In this decision, the group realigned the policy, allowing DCPP to operate with an exemption through 2025, but not after that. This same group could extend that exemption to Diablo Canyon permanently, which is a once-through-cooling plant built before the new order was enacted, but which has been forced to close in part because of the discriminatory enforcement of this new rule which would engender a prohibitive cost to PG&E. Yet, the water officials—knowing that gas plants are carbon-emitting—extended the exemption just to the fossil fuel source and not to Diablo Canyon.

Failure of the FERC to address the Energy Reliability Contributions made by Nuclear

CGNP filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Reliability Commission (FERC) in October 2020. This was a never-before-explored avenue to protect an operating nuclear power plant. The grounds are that Diablo Canyon Power Plant makes vital reliability contributions to California’s electric power grid and supports the reliability of the state’s natural gas system as well. Included in the action were the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NAERC), the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), the California Independent System Operator Corporation (CALISO), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California State Water Resources Control Board (CSWRCB), and the California State Lands Commission. The motion was docketed as FERC Docket EL21-13. The objective of CGNP’s FERC Complaint is to establish the critical role that Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) plays in supporting California’s bulk electric system and for supporting California’s bulk natural gas transmission and storage system. CGNP’s Amended Complaint describes some of the California-specific reliability threats that DCPP helps protect against. DCPP protects against more rolling blackouts in California.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) filed a motion to become a Party to this proceeding. Quoting from their motion, “EEI’s members include generator owners and operators, transmission owners and operators and other entities that are subject to the mandatory NERC Reliability Standards and thus may be affected by the outcome of this proceeding.” The American Nuclear Society (ANS) filed comments in strong support of the issues that Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. raised in their October, 27, 2020 Complaint that opened FERC Docket EL21-13. Diablo Canyon plays a vital role in supplying reliable power to California and supporting the reliability of the California natural gas system. This statement is signed by the ANS Executive Director Craig Piercy and the ANS President Dr. Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar.

Groups and individuals were able to register with the FERC to file as an intervenor or a commenter. (The attached PDF explains how to access the FERC case records and file at a party.) In all, over 50 comments and invenors were filed with the FERC relating to this action, many of which were in support of Diablo Canyon. Several objections and motions to dismiss were filed, forcing CGNP to file an Amended Complaint (of 19 pages) and four Appendices, all of which totaled 866 pages.

CPUC Order Instituting Rulemaking to Establish Policies, Processes, and Rules to Ensure Reliable Electric Service in California in the Event of an Extreme Weather Event in 2021

CGNP filed to obtain Party Status on the CPUC’s new Proceeding opened in November 2020 with little publicized news that it was doing so. Nevertheless, the CPUC had already listed 133 recipients in this CPUC Proceeding, when CGNP discovered it. There is reason to believe that some special interests were preferentially contacted by the CPUC to the detriment of the public interest. Several within CGNP believe this proceeding was initiated by the CPUC as a consequence of CGNP’s FERC Complaint being filed on October 26, 2020. FERC opened Docket EL21-13 the next day. CGNP’s Complaint names the CPUC as a Respondent. CGNP has increased the pressure on the CPUC and the five other Respondents by filing an Amended Complaint before FERC on November 25, 2020.

CGNP assembles references showing that the natural gas industry has been lobbying federal regulators to shut down nuclear power plants and replace them with gas generation, largely hidden behind solar and wind, which have extraordinarily low capacity factors

CGNP List of References contains three references documenting the risks associated with retiring safe, economical, and reliable fuel-secure and emission-free nuclear power plants and replacing them with natural gas, a “just in time” fuel. New York State, which was at one time a leader in nuclear power, is in the process of replacing their clean nuclear power plants with highly-polluting “dual fuel” power plants that burn fuel oil or other liquid hydrocarbons during the inevitable natural gas supply constraint events. Such a change could be in store for the remainder of the nation—hidden behind the fossil industry’s deep-pocketed advocacy for solar and wind. See the August 8, 2016 Washington Post Turns Out Wind and Solar Have a Secret Friend : Natural Gas.

  • This 2015 U.S. Department of Energy-funded reference is an excellent introduction to transmission and generation planning processes. (NERC Planning processes need to incorporate probabilistic risk analysis [PRA] into the appropriate reliability standards. The NRC is already incorporating PRA into its nuclear power generation regulations.) A White Paper on the Incorporation of Risk Analysis into Planning Processes – NARUC – EISPC – EPRI – January 2015 159 Pages.
  • WECC Western Interconnection Gas – Electric Interface Study Public Report, June, 2018 Page 15 0f 30 – Cited in EIPC Gas-Electric Interface Study, below. Quote: “…The DSW pipeline rupture scenario results in full disruption of gas service to 24 GW of gas generators, which translates into 428 GWH of unserved energy and 236 GWH of unmet spinning reserves. The impact can be traced back to the configuration of the pipeline system which yields two concentrated “islands” of power demand in Phoenix and Southern California; with the loss of a DSW mainline, there is simply not enough capacity remaining to provide the gas needed to compensate….” To put the above disruption of 24 GW of California’s natural-gas-fired generation in perspective, per the California Energy Commission’s 2018 statistics, Natural gas-fired power plants make up 41,000 MW (41 GW) or about half of the state’s total generating capacity Annual natural gas fired production was 90,691 GWh. Natural gas now provides about 60% of California’s dispatchable (always-on) power.
  • EIPC Gas-Electric System Interface Study (EIPC = Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative) David Whiteley, EIPC Executive Director John P Buechler, Chairman, EIPC Coordination Committee, NERC Workshop: Gas Infrastructure Risk July 10, 2018 Levitan & Associates. Implausible non-dispatchable substitutions for dispatchable nuclear power shown on page 14. What actually occurs is the substitution of dispatchable natural gas with its associated emissions – and fuel oil during natural gas supply constraint events associated with winter polar vortices or summer heat waves – for reliable, economical, fuel- secure nuclear power. See WECC’s “DSW Scenario” on pages 50 and 51. DCPP Retirement discussed without mentioning California-specific foreseeable disruptions to natural gas transmission lines on page 52. See The Analysis Group Presentations on the final pages. 225 pages in report.

CGNP & Related Articles & OpEds

Experts Weigh in on Seismic Safety at Diablo Canyon in Letter to Newsom, by Carbon Free California

Four seismic safety experts sent this letter to Governor Newsom, August 29, 2022 posted at

(April 29, 2022) – Today, a group of experts in seismic issues associated with nuclear power plants delivered a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom assuring him that an extensive review of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) found that the facility was “built to withstand with significant extra margins the largest earthquakes that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires it to withstand.”

The letter concludes, “In summary, DCNPP does not pose a seismic danger, and thus the seismic issue should be taken off the table when considering increasing DCNPP’s useful life and operation.”

Full text of the letter can be found below:

April 29, 2022

Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California
1021 O Street, Suite 9000
Sacramento, CA 95814 

Dear Governor Newsom:

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCNPP) has been back in the news with your recent comments to the Los Angeles Times potentially opening the door for extending the plant’s operations. One of the issues raised is whether it is safe to continue to operate the plant given its location and the underlying geology.

We write as experts in seismic issues associated with nuclear power plants, who are also very familiar with the Diablo Canyon site. It is our opinion, and the opinion of the expert community, that, whatever the economic or environmental merits of continuing the plant’s operation may be, the seismic issue should be taken off the table: the plant does not pose a seismic danger as determined by a thorough analysis of the seismic risks.

Following the Fukushima accident in 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) reviewed the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant’s ability to withstand external events (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes) of exceptionally rare and severe magnitude (‘beyond design basis events’). 

Using NRC’s state-of-the-art seismic requirements, DCNPP was subject to a series of detailed new seismic evaluations specific to the Diablo canyon site.  These assessments included:

  • Development of a state-of-the-art new seismic hazard assessment for the DCNPP site;
  • Development of the plant seismic risk model to assess plant safety if exposed to an extreme seismic or flooding event;
  • Development of seismic failure probabilities correlated to the new seismic hazard for all DCNPP safety related and key non-safety related structures, systems and components;
  • Development of seismic risk estimates for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant that are well within the limits established by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as demonstrating a nuclear plant to have adequate safety;
  • Proximity of DCNPP to various faults and DCNPP site’s high elevation with respect to sea level were taken into account in the seismic and flood protection analyses, respectively.

After nine years of assessment the NRC’s conclusion, as embodied in an NRC letter dated 8th May 2020[1], is that “existing seismic capacity or effective flood protection [at Diablo Canyon] will address the unbounded reevaluated hazards.” That is, Diablo was designed and built to withstand with significant extra margins the largest earthquakes that the US NRC requires it to withstand.  Further, “The staff confirmed that the conclusions in the various staff assessments continue to support a determination that no further regulatory actions are required for Diablo Canyon.”  That is, no seismic retrofits are necessary.

As an additional level of protection in response to the Fukushima event, DCNPP (along with all other nuclear plants in the US) has been retrofitted with special equipment and procedures known as FLEX.  FLEX is meant to ensure reliable cooling of the reactor core and spent fuel pool under a hypothetical scenario in which all design-basis safety systems have been disabled by a severe external event.

The above conclusions and findings are not surprising, in fact expected, considering that the DCNPP evaluations are based on information from extensive and continual geosciences investigations since the early days of planning of the project, and several major plant evaluations, including the Long-Term Seismic Program, that have been conducted along the way after receiving the operating license.  As a result of these evaluations, a number of voluntary safety-enhancements above and beyond regulatory requirements have been made. 

In summary, DCNPP does not pose a seismic danger, and thus the seismic issue should be taken off the table when considering increasing DCNPP’s useful life and operation.  We would be happy to discuss this matter further with state officials and others to better inform the public debate.


Gregory S. Hardy, Senior Principal, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc.
4695 MacArthur Court, Suite 500
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Donald Wakefield, Senior Consultant (retired), Wakefield LLC.
570 Gardena Court
Encinitas, CA 92024

Loring A. Wyllie, Jr., Senior Principal, Degenkolb Engineers, S.E., NAE
375 Beale Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

 Peter Yanev, Founder, Yanev Associates, LLC, d.b.a. EQE Consulting
35 Glorietta Ct.
Orinda, CA 94563

About Carbon Free California

Carbon Free California is funded by California-based entrepreneurs and brings together leaders from business, labor and the technology sector to focus on creating a pathway to a carbon-free future and securing the clean, reliable energy needed to power the world’s fifth-largest economy. Carbon Free California believes the state must pursue all forms of emission-free energy to address the climate crisis and achieve our urgent emission reduction goals. Extending the operation of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant will bolster the grid with reliable carbon-free energy and enable the state to transition to increasing shares of wind and solar power, while avoiding disruptive and costly rolling blackouts. Carbon Free California receives no funding from utility or nuclear industry interests.     

Keep Diablo Canyon Running, by Dr. Gene Nelson

Draft Rebuttal by CGNP to the CPUC’s April 15 th Letter to the Editor

Closing Diablo Canyon spurs fears over replacement power, by Gene Nelson

Opinion by Gene Nelson, April 05, 2022 printed in The Capitol Weekly

California’s power is expensive and polluting – but doesn’t have to be.

The state of California plans to replace Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) mostly with Wyoming coal-fired generation. The source of the replacement power will remain hidden until 2025, when Californians can’t stop the state.

As a nonprofit intervenor before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2016, Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) has uncovered four obscure clues in CPUC filings that confirm the state’s plan. CGNP’s thousands of pages of filings provide the details.

The first clue is the engineering requirement that since Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is a reliable 24/7 generator, any incremental replacement generation must have similar reliability. Otherwise, rolling blackouts occur.

Engineers use the term “dispatchable” (under human control) to describe Diablo Canyon’s power. Dispatchable generators that supply power like Diablo Canyon are powered by natural gas or coal. The ongoing drought means building new dams is impractical. While Diablo Canyon is compact, it’s annual production is the equivalent of five Hoover Dams.

Californians demand that California’s coal plants be shut down and they object to new plants powered by natural gas.

Widely-promoted solar and wind aren’t dispatchable. The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow with sufficient force. Natural gas fills in for solar and wind’s substantial intermittencies. Batteries are extremely expensive — and could optimally be reserved for vehicles to improve air quality, instead of displacing natural gas in power plants.

Those constraints imply that California’s replacement generation must be located mostly out of state. There are many generators that could produce additional power to replace Diablo Canyon located in or near the nation’s biggest coal deposits in Wyoming.

The second clue is the requirement that a new transmission network needs to be built to send the power about 1,000 miles from Wyoming to California.

Such a large network, first announced in 2007, is the Energy Gateway. The network’s mastermind, Warren Buffett, stated in his 2021 letter to shareholders the network would cost $18 billion by 2030. Oregon and Washington state have already announced upcoming bans against out-of-state coal power. Thus, by California utility law, most of this transmission cost will be borne by Californians.

Third clue: A California legal euphemism “unspecified imports,” which sounds nicer than coal, was created in 2009. Unfortunately, this term mostly applies to out-of-state coal power.

The term appears twice on page 16 in the CPUC’s June 24, 2021 procurement decision in R2005003. Between 4,000 and 5,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity is stipulated,. In order to convert this to more familiar kilowatt-hours (kWh) on your power bill, the capacity factor, or percentage ON time is used. California nuclear power has a capacity factor of 90% and there are 8,766 hours in a year. The product of 5,000 MW times 8,766 hours times 90% is 40 billion kWh.

The fourth clue is the increased air pollution from burning coal.

How can California’s leaders evade this problem? The answer requires models they can manipulate. On page 104 of the CPUC’s R2005003 Preferred System Portfolio adopted on Feb. 10, 2022 is the sentence, “Criteria pollutants were counted from generation within California only, and not from unspecified imports.” This means toxic air pollution from out-of-state coal power is artificially zeroed.

The increased demand for U.S. natural gas to supply Europe after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means increased gas costs for utilities, resulting in pressure to burn more coal. Since nuclear plants like Diablo Canyon don’t emit air pollution, they should remain online instead.

With the increased transmission costs, in 2025 Californians could have the worst of both worlds with significantly higher toxic pollution released into the environment — while paying more for this emission-laden power from Wyoming.

Beginning to reverse California’s harmful energy policies means continuing operation of safe, reliable and cost-effective zero-emission Diablo Canyon well beyond 2025.


Gene Nelson the is legal assistant for Californians for Green Nuclear Power. He has a Ph.D. in radiation biophysics.

Is California on track to meet clean energy goals without Diablo Canyon? It’s doubtful, by Gene Nelson

Commentary by Gene Nelson, August 19, 2021 printed in The Tribune

(Photo by John Lindsey)

Economics is given short shrift in The SLO Tribune’s editorial, “Ready or not, Diablo Canyon is closing — and California will just have to adjust.”

Diablo Canyon is the region’s largest private sector employer. If the plant were to be relicensed for another 20 years, it would pump over $20 billion into our region’s economy.

Also, keeping Diablo Canyon open will help California meet its ambitious clean energy goals.

The safe plant’s rugged foundation, emplaced in bedrock 85 feet above sea level, was built in the location on California’s coast least vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.

So, unlike our natural gas supply that is reliant on aging and vulnerable transmission lines, Diablo Canyon will likely be up and running after a major earthquake, providing reliable electricity for recovery.

Furthermore, California’s electricity rates are the highest in the continental U.S. with rolling blackouts last summer, and more blackouts probable this year.

This is not the time to shut down an emission-free, reliable energy source.

As an independent, non-profit intervenor, Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. (CGNP) for years advocated before the state for clean nuclear power to support the interests of the environment, ratepayers and public safety. We’ve been met by a stone wall of denial, obstruction and obfuscation.

Consider the recent procurement order issued by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that requires utilities to provide an additional 11,500 megawatts of energy by 2026

In the document — and in comments to the news media — the CPUC has claimed that all that new energy must be emission-free.

How will that be possible, given the short time frame?

That’s one of the questions Californians need to be asking themselves.

Here’s a hint: “Incremental imports could help meet short-term resource needs while resources are planned and constructed to address the 2026 shortfall,” a document filed by the California Independent System Operator in 2020 states.

Clearly, there must be an out-of-state electricity supplier.

In fact, the CPUC document even references “unspecified imports” in one section of the procurement order. This is a California legal euphemism mostly applied to out-of-state coal fired generation.

One of the most likely candidates to provide imports is PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE), which owns several coal and natural gas plants in the West and is constructing an Energy Gateway transmission project that will link several states. (There is already a transmission line in southern Nevada that links to a Southern California Edison substation, providing access to the California grid.)

Despite a 2006 California law (SB 1368) that sets an emission standard for power provided to California, PacifiCorp obtained an exemption due to its “small footprint” in California.

With 5,234 megawatts of coal-fired power and 3,013 megawatts of natural gas power, PacifiCorp operates in marked contrast to Pacific Gas and Electric, which already has 85% carbon-free power — and no coal.

The Clean Air Task Force’s Toll From Coal website tabulates annual deaths from air pollution caused by coal-fired power plants. Based on those calculations, BHE’s western U.S. power plants were responsible for 276 deaths in 2019.

Keeping Diablo Canyon running past 2025 will prevent the annual emissions of about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide as well as prevent substantial quantities of toxic oxides of nitrogen, sulfur and mercury from being emitted.

Yet the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is acquiescing to Diablo Canyon’s closure.

The CPUC is the state agency in charge of overseeing public utility matters that affect every Californian. Yet it occupies a place in our state’s legal landscape devoid of accountability, oversight or independent review.

Appellate review of the commission’s decisions is typically unavailable. Challenges are denied without explanation. CPUC commissioners, those of the California Energy Commission and the California Independent System Operator (CASIO) Board of Governors are all appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Absent the possibility of any meaningful review by independent ratepayer organizations, the three groups effectively “rubber stamp” the governor’s policy objectives.

In 2015, there was an attempt to appoint a CPUC inspector-general to ensure ethical compliance. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown quashed that initiative.

With the 2005 revisions of the 1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act, deep-pocketed special interests can directly lobby the CPUC to obtain favored treatment.

It’s going to take a fight against greedy special interests to keep Diablo Canyon running.

Californians for Green Nuclear Power wants SLO County to follow California environmental laws when they review possible plant closure. We believe Californians can’t afford to lose this fight.

Gene Nelson the is legal assistant for Californians for Green Nuclear Power. He has a Ph.D. in radiation biophysics.

Complaint seeks FERC review of 2025 retirement of Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

By Jasmin Melvin, October 28, 202 printed in S&P Global, Platts

Group alleges reliability standard violations
Requests FERC action to enforce standards

Washington — A nonprofit nuclear power advocacy group in California has called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to step in and review California regulators’ decision to approve the retirement of Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in 2025.

Californians for Green Nuclear Power  filed a complaint with FERC against several entities Oct. 26 with regards to the upcoming retirement of the 2.24-GW nuclear plant, and asked FERC to launch an investigation into whether shutting down Diablo Canyon violates federal reliability standards (EL21-13). [Note: By using the docket number EL21-13-000 with the link below, CGNP’s trio of filings in EL21-13 dated October 26, 2020 are available for no-cost download at the FERC Library: ]

The group alleges in the complaint that the California Public Utilities Commission, California Independent System Operator, California State Water Resources Control Board and California State Lands Commission violated mandatory reliability standards when they approved “the voluntary plan to retire [Diablo Canyon] in 2025 without first properly analyzing the adverse bulk electric system and adverse bulk natural gas system consequences.”

The complaint further alleges that the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which crafts and enforces the reliability standards for the bulk power system, and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, a regional compliance authority of NERC, “failed to conduct proper oversight or enforce NERC’s reliability standards to prevent reliability standards violations caused by removing [Diablo Canyon’s] 2,240 MW from the California electric grid.”

Reliability challenges

The nonprofit group points to known California-specific hazards, including seismic activity and the state’s wildfire safety policies, that it said should have been considered when deciding to retire the nuclear plant as well as underlying reliability issues facing California’s electric grid that it asserted would be exacerbated by the premature closure of Diablo Canyon.

A major concern for the group is the state’s significant proportion of natural gas-fired generation that is vulnerable to sudden earthquakes and slow aseismic creep that can damage pipelines. According to the complaint, about 60% of California’s dispatchable in-state generation comes from natural gas, of which 95% is imported from other states.

Retiring Diablo Canyon would remove the state’s largest generator and with it about 10% of in-state generation. Along with the nuclear facility’s carbon-free and reliability attributes, its fuel security benefits would also be lost as it operates independently of the state’s aging and vulnerable gas transmission and storage system, the complaint said.

The complaint also notes California’s high level of dependence on power imported from other states, a contributor to the August 2020 blackouts in California.

Californians for Green Nuclear Power contended that those blackouts were not an isolated incident but a consequence of “much larger systemic reliability challenges that will only be made worse by the voluntary closure of [Diablo Canyon].”

Public safety power shutoff policies, among the state’s wildfire safety tools, are expected to present additional reliability challenges as their applicability is likely to expand, the complaint said.

Relief sought

As such, “there are significant reliability benefits to both the bulk electrical and bulk natural gas systems in California associated with the continued safe operation beyond 2025 of PG&E’s [Diablo Canyon] as well as the re-commissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station that ceased operations in 2012,” the group said in the complaint.

Two units at San Onofre were retired after replacement components did not perform as expected and repairs were deemed too costly to be economic. Dismantlement of structures at San Onofre began this year.

The group is seeking “an in-depth reliability analysis focused on how the continued safe operation of [Diablo Canyon] provides the reliability benefits” outlined in its complaint. It also asked FERC to take “action to enforce NERC’s reliability standards, as well as review and initiate remediation of the significant reliability concerns raised in this complaint.”

PG&E proposed retiring Diablo Canyon in a 2016 application to the CPUC that sought to shut the two-unit facility in conjunction with the expiration of the units’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses, on Nov. 24, 2024, for Unit 1 and Aug. 26, 2025, for Unit 2.

The CPUC approved the retirement plan in 2018. Californians for Green Nuclear Power took issue with the ruling, noting that state regulators did not decide on electricity procurement that would be needed to replace the nuclear generation. Rather, the CPUC “left consideration of this critical reliability issue to be considered in the future as part of the CPUC’s Integrated Resources Procurement proceeding,” the group said.

FERC set a Nov. 16 deadline for comments, protests and motions to intervene in the complaint proceeding.

[Download PDF]

Is California Meeting Climate Goals by Exporting CO2 Emissions to Its Neighbors?

By Gene Nelson, October 12, 2020  printed version here

Dr. Gene Nelson, CGNP

ARROYO GRANDE, CA., October 12, 2020 – The premature shutdown of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) in January 2012 raised a big question for California ratepayers and environmental activists: what would replace the plant’s electricity in the state’s generation mix? San Onofre, on the Pacific Ocean near San Clemente, had generated over 2 billion watts of clean, carbon-free electricity – 10% of California’s in-state generation – for over forty years. An Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) submitted by majority owner Southern California Edison promised the hole in California’s electricity supply would be filled by new solar and wind resources, energy storage, and efficiency programs to reduce customer demand.

But records for 2012 tell a different story: a curious jump in electricity from “Unspecified Sources of Power” (USP), a new category introduced in 2009, reveals all of San Onofre’s clean generation was likely replaced by gas- or coal-fired electricity imported from other states.

“That the source of nearly half of Edison’s power suddenly became ‘unspecified’ the year SONGS closed is deeply troubling,” said Carl Wurtz, President of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP). “If SONGS was replaced by coal and/or gas generation from other states, published figures for California’s CO2 emissions are at least 43 million tons too low. We’ve not only missed our 2020 climate goal, we’re not even close.”

California’s last remaining nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, faces a similar fate. On August 25,2020 an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune revealed California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) anticipates additional imports will be needed – ones specifically corresponding to the 2024-25 retirement of Diablo Canyon Units 1 & 2. Like those from San Onofre, the imports would significantly increase CO2 emissions.

“Enough is enough,” said CGNP Legal Assistant Dr. Gene Nelson. “Science and engineering do not support early retirement of Diablo Canyon, period, and clean air won’t be the only casualty. The plant generates the equivalent of five Hoover Dams of reliable, safe, and cost-effective electricity. Dependence on California’s aging natural gas transmission system and out- of-state providers means less reliability and higher prices,” he said. “The worst of both worlds.”

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An Interview by Host Dave Congalton with Dr. Gene Nelson on Brown-outs and Nuclear Power

Station KVEC talks with Dr. Gene Nelson, September 9, 2020 Recording available here

Dr. Gene Nelson discusses the problems occurring as a result of California going in the wrong energy direction for a couple of decades.  The state opposed nuclear power while favoring solar and wind.  While this is an emotionally-appealing narrative, it is not supported by science and engineering.

The result of the experiment to replace reliable zero-emission nuclear power from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) with the expenditure of well over $10 billion in a buildout of solar and wind is an unreliable power grid that is prone to rotating blackouts.  California easily handled a record power demand of 50,270 MW on July 24, 2006 when SONGS was online.  Now the California grid was brought to near collapse in mid-August 2020 with a significantly smaller demand.  The real purpose of this massive expenditure appears to be to burnish the reputation of natural gas, which is California’s dominant dispatchable energy source, now providing about 60% of energy.  Whilte the death toll from radiation from the entire U.S. commercial nuclear power fleet of about 100 reactors in the past six decades is zero, just one natural gas pipeline explosion killed 8 in San Bruno a decade ago.

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OTC Plants to Remain Open, Calif. Water Board Rules

By Hudson Sangree, September 2, 2020 printed in Forbes

Four aging natural gas plants scheduled to retire in December will keep operating because of California’s anticipated capacity shortfall, state water officials decided Tuesday. The four members of the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously to reverse a prior board decision ordering the once-through-cooling (OTC) plants to cease operations…

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Democrats Say California Is Model For Climate Action But Its Blackouts Say Otherwise, by Michael Shellenberg

By Michael Shellenberg, August 17, 2020 printed in Forbes

At the Democratic National Convention this week, presidential and vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will make the case for spending $2 trillion, or $500 billion per year, to transition the U.S. away from fossil fuels toward renewables like solar and wind. 

Biden has said he would not “tinker around the edges” with his plan. “We’re going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity.”

In many respects, the Biden-Harris plan is even more aggressive than California’s. “The plan is very bold,” Leah Stokes of the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the Financial Times. “There is no [US] state right now that has a target this ambitious.”

But California’s big bet on renewables, and shunning of natural gas and nuclear, is directly responsible for the state’s blackouts and high electricity prices. 

“We will be forced today to ask utilities to cut off power to millions today, and tomorrow, and beyond,” said Stephen Berberich, the President and CEO of California’s Independent System Operator, CAISO, on a Monday morning conference call. “Demand will greatly exceed supply.”

The immediate cause of California’s blackouts is a mismatch between electricity supply and demand. Higher temperatures have led to greater demand for air conditioning. And California has less electricity, including from wind energy, available.

And yet, while California is hot, weather conditions are well within the normal range for the state’s summer weather.

The underlying reason blackouts are occurring is because California lacks reliable, in-state supply. And the reason for that is California has been closing both natural gas and nuclear power plants.

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Knowing Your Power: Improving the Reporting of Electric Power Fuel Content in California

Center for Sustainable Energy, By Steven Weissman, May 23, 2018  posted at the

“There is a need for reliable, accurate, timely and consistent information regarding fuel sources for electric generation offered for retail sale in California.  . . . Categorizing some power as “unspecified” and using a static proxy for carbon emissions masks the greenhouse gas consequences of load- serving entities’ power purchase decisions.”


That is what the California Legislature said, 20 years ago, when it enacted Senate Bill (SB) 1305 (1997) that required utilities and other retail providers to disclose sources of electric generation. This came a year after the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 1890, which allowed for retail competition in electricity markets. At the time, the fuel content law no doubt was prompted by a desire to verify the claims of various retail providers as to the environmental benefits of choosing their service over others. Later, the Legislature added the objective of understanding the greenhouse gases associated with the delivered power.3 The Power Content Label, issued by each retail provider on an annual basis, offers an opportunity to hold retailers accountable for the impacts of their power choices. It also could help consumers to be better informed as they choose a provider and improve their understanding of the implications of using power in one part of the day versus another.

The Problem

The Power Content Label provides too little information about the fuels powering the grid and no information at all about what fuels are being used
at any given time. This is a problem because it leaves electric power providers less than fully accountable for the power purchase and delivery decisions
they make. In addition, although customer choice of retail providers is now quite limited, the current Power Content Label fails to help customers who do have a choice to make well-informed decisions, and it fails to properly inform consumers large and small about the greenhouse gas implications of their power use decisions. Further, understanding the times at which various sources are being used to power the grid is increasingly important as regulators make decisions about when to encourage people to use power for such purposes as charging electric vehicles.

Why Californians Face This Problem

The law, as amended in 2009,4 allows retailers to characterize a portion of their power as coming from “unspecified” sources. Statewide, that represents more than 14 percent of the delivered electricity; for Southern California Edison, that number has exceeded 40 percent.5 And the power in this category is not just any electric generation – the unspecified category is dominated by imported power that is likely to include output from the dirtiest generators serving California markets.

In addition, while the law authorizes the California Energy Commission to collect data about generation from every power plant on an hourly basis,
it only requires retail providers to tell their customers about annual average usage of each fuel type. Perhaps equally important, the Energy Commission does not perform an audit to ensure the accuracy of the information it
is providing.

Power supply decisions made by retailers have significant environmental
and climate consequences. Yet, few stakeholders are motivated to do a more complete job of reporting on fuel content. Arguably, retailers don’t want
to be required to account for all their power purchase decisions and dirtier out-of-state generators don’t want to identify themselves as it could lead to lower sales, and none of the market participants — including the California Independent System Operator — want to take on the added work of creating accurate, detailed accounting for each power purchase transaction. Further, retailers have successfully argued that any disaggregation of the annual fuel averages by season, month or day of the year would enable some generators to gain a competitive advantage by allowing them to infer the marketing strategies of others.

This leaves it to the Legislature to require more detailed reporting and to regulators to make sure it happens. This report provides the history of the Power Content Label in California, explains the problems with the existing approach, analyzes the reasons for the current limitations and the advisability of improving the process, and offers suggested next steps.

Why the Power Content Label Is Important

A series of Legislative actions, beginning in the late 1990s, created and subsequently amended the Power Source Disclosure program in California.

In 1997, Senate Bill 1305 created the Power Source Disclosure program,7 which required each retail electricity provider to disclose to its customers on an annual basis the fuel source of electricity it purchases or owns to serve its load. The aim of the program is to provide “accurate, reliable, and simple-to- understand information on the sources of energy that are used to provide electric services.”8 Figure 1 provides a typical Power Content Label.

Assembly Bill 162, which passed in 2009, significantly revised the original Power Source Disclosure Program. The most substantial change was the addition of a category for unspecified power. Prior to 2009, in addition to reporting on specifically identified power sources as it does now, the California Energy Commission’s Electricity Analysis Office also assigned a regional generation mix to the remaining imports from the Northwest and Southwest regions of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Based on the general characteristics of power from those two regions, Power Content Labels appeared to identify the fuel sources for all the power that a given retailer furnished to its customers. But since the passage of AB 162, retailers have been allowed to report purchases in a category called “unspecified,” revealing nothing about the fuel used to generate the related power.

California Assembly Bill 1110, which passed in 2016, amended the California Public Utilities Code Section 398 to “…require the Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to adopt a methodology for the calculation of greenhouse gas emissions intensity for each purchase of electricity by a retail supplier to serve its retail customers.” The aim of the bill, as stated by the commission, is to “improve transparency for customers and strengthen the Power Source Disclosure program’s relevance to climate change activities in California.”9 In 2018, the Energy Commission plans to enact new rules in response to the legislation. The staff has issued proposed rules that would improve one aspect of the power content reporting process – the way that the reports characterize renewable energy credits (as further discussed). However, AB 1110 cannot achieve its aim of increased customer transparency without better power source accounting by both the Energy Commission and the utilities. In the absence of more accurate accounting, many load-serving entities (LSEs) will be reporting a systemwide average emissions factor for a large portion of their service. In fact, the bill could create perverse incentives for utilities to obscure purchases of generation from coal and natural gas-fueled power plants by classifying them as unspecified power to reduce their reported emissions factor. In addition, there are inconsistencies in reporting by the LSEs and Energy Commission, as discussed in more detail in the following sections.

California Assembly Bill 79, introduced in 2017, would have required the CARB to update its methodology for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from unspecified sources of electricity and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) to report to the Legislature on its ability to break down greenhouse gas emissions on an hourly basis. The Legislature passed a watered-down version of the bill, but it was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

Current De nitions of Unspeci ed and Speci ed Power

California Public Utilities Code Section 398.2(d), as amended by AB 1110 defines specified sources as: Electricity transactions that are traceable to specific generation sources by any auditable contract trail or equivalent, such as a tradable commodity system, that provides commercial verification that the electricity source claimed has been sold once and only to a retail consumer.

Public Utilities Code Section 398.2(e), as amended by AB 1110, defines unspecified sources as: Electricity that is not traceable to specific generation sources by any auditable contract trail or equivalent, including a tradable commodity system, that provides commercial verification that the electricity source claimed has been sold once, and only once, to a retail consumer.

Power Disclosure Calculations in California

There are two power disclosure calculations performed by the California Energy Commission (with data assistance from CAISO and the LSE): “total system electric generation” and the “Power Content Label.” While these calculations rely on some of the same data sources they are derived by different analysts, using different methodologies and some different data. A step-by-step description of each methodology is outlined in Appendix A.

Organized Electricity Markets

Organized markets are managed by independent system operators (ISOs)
or balancing authorities. These are the entities responsible for balancing the demand and supply of electricity for a specific area.10 There are 35 balancing authorities in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), one of the three electric system interconnections in the contiguous 48 states (Figure 3).11

WECC is divided into three subregions.12

  1. The California region, which has five balancing authorities including the California Independent System Operator.
  2. The Northwest region, which includes most of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Washington and a small area of northern California.
  3. The Southwest region, which includes much of Arizona, New Mexico and small portions of Nevada and Texas.

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) oversees day-ahead and hour-ahead power markets. As is the case with ISOs and regional transition organization in other parts of the country, the CAISO also serves as a balancing authority, managing the flow of electricity across 80 percent of the state’s power grid.13

CAISO reports hourly output data, breaking down the power that flows within its network between renewables (geothermal, biomass, biogas, small hydro, wind, solar PV, solar thermal, nuclear, other thermal, hydro and imports. Figure 4 shows the hourly breakdown of total production by resource type for the day 3/13/2017.

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Who will profit from the grid of the future?

By Sammy Roth, February 2, 2017 printed in Desert Sun

Warren Buffett has amassed a $70-billion fortune by taking the long view.

In the utility industry, the long view looks like this: People will always need electricity, which makes utilities relatively safe investments. And as renewable energy continues to displace fossil fuels — a trend that will almost certainly continue, whatever President Donald Trump might do — utilities stand to profit by building massive power lines connecting the far-flung places with the strongest wind and sunlight to the cities that need clean power.

That long-term outlook helps explain why Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy purchased PacifiCorp in 2006 and then NV Energy in 2013, paying a combined $10.7 billion for utilities that serve 3.1 million customers across Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and part of Northern

California. It also explains why PacifiCorp is trying to become part of California’s electric grid — a controversial proposal backed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, but criticized by some environmentalists, state lawmakers, consumer advocates and labor groups.

Brown supports PacifiCorp’s bid to join California’s electricity marketplace, as do some environmental groups, because grid experts say it could reduce climate pollution and lower Californians’ energy bills. Critics, though, fear grid expansion would backfire, resulting in increased climate pollution across the West and unnecessarily high energy bills for California homes and businesses.

One thing is certain: Buffett stands to profit.

For the last decade, PacifiCorp has been trying to build a $6-billion transmission project called Energy Gateway, which would generate a significant return on investment for Buffett and other Berkshire Hathaway shareholders — if PacifiCorp can convince regulators the project makes economic sense. Access to the California marketplace could give the utility the rationale it’s been looking for to finish building the project and reap the profits.

California could benefit from PacifiCorp joining its grid, too. A study commissioned by the state grid operator found Californians could save tens of millions of dollars per year on their energy bills, and billions more if other western utilities follow PacifiCorp’s lead. But critics say some Californians could end up with higher bills, especially if the state has to pay for big power lines like Gateway.

“We’re not saying regional expansion has no economic or environmental benefits. It’s just that they’ve been significantly overstated, and the risks have been underplayed,” said Matthew Freedman, a staff attorney for the Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advocates for ratepayers in government proceedings.

Jerry Brown’s plan could save consumers billions of dollars and slash climate pollution. But critics are worried it would do the opposite. (file, 2017) Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun

Regional expansion could also cause California to lose thousands of jobs building solar and wind farms, if developers are able to build clean energy projects in other states that they otherwise would have been built here. That possibility has made labor unions wary, especially
because those other states tend to have lower wages and looser labor standards than California does.

Grid expansion could also reduce the likelihood of new geothermal development in California’s Imperial Valley, since expansion would give California utilities easier access to Wyoming wind, a far cheaper option for hitting their clean energy targets. That possibility has frustrated the Imperial Irrigation District, which sees geothermal development as critical to improving the economic fortunes of its impoverished region, and to addressing the decline of the Salton Sea. The district has launched two lawsuits related to grid expansion, trying to poke holes in its economic and legal foundations.

It’s difficult to quantify the benefits of a regional grid, said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, a Sacramento trade group that supports expansion. He actually thinks the state’s study underestimates the benefits. But getting people to agree “has proved elusive, because people are worried about what might go wrong,” he said.

“To the skeptics, this is something to be viewed skeptically and suspiciously. To the proponents, it seems obvious,” White said. “And I think the answer lies in between.”

The big grid

Most of California’s electric grid is run by the California Independent System Operator, a quasi- governmental nonprofit known as CAISO. The agency oversees the wires owned by Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and a few smaller utilities, carefully balancing supply and demand every moment of every day. Several other California utilities — including the Imperial Irrigation District, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District — run their own grids, independent from the CAISO system.

In April 2015, PacifiCorp and California said they would explore the possibility of the Buffett- owned utility joining the CAISO system. That would create a unified six-state electric grid linking Los Angeles, Portland and Salt Lake City. The unified grid would stretch as far north as Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and as far east as Buffalo, Wyoming, a small town at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains in the state’s coal-rich Powder River Basin.

The main benefit of a unified regional grid, supporters say, is that it would be easier for electricity to flow across state lines, improving efficiency and lowering costs for everyone. California would get easier access to cheap Wyoming wind and would be able to sell its excess solar energy to other states, reducing the cost to consumers of meeting an ambitious 50 percent clean energy mandate.

“A regional grid will enable greater renewable development, lower costs and carbon emissions and improved electric reliability,” Gov. Brown wrote in an August letter to legislative leaders.

PacifiCorp would benefit, too, or else it wouldn’t be interested. (The utility operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming, and as Pacific Power in California, Oregon and Washington.) A preliminary 2015 study commissioned by PacifiCorp and CAISO found the Buffett-owned utility could save as much as $122 million annually by 2020, and as much as $272 million annually by 2030. Some of those savings would stem from easier access to cheap solar power from California, where solar farms sometimes flood the grid with more energy than the state can use.

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