Santa Barbara nonprofit sues Lands Commission over Diablo Canyon
August 3, 2016
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A Santa Barbara-based nonprofit has filed a lawsuit against the California State Lands Commission, alleging the agency wrongfully approved a new lease for the cooling system at Diablo Canyon power plant. The lawsuit claims state law mandates than Diablo Canyon undergo an environmental review.
On June 28, the three-member State Lands Commission voted unanimously to approve a new tidelands lease for the Diablo Canyon cooling system. The decision will allow PG&E to continue operating the nuclear plant until 2025, when the utility plans to shut it down. If PG&E did not obtain the new lease, it faced the possibility of closing Diablo Canyon as early as 2018.
The World Business Academy, a think tank that opposes nuclear power and promotes renewable energy, filed its lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The suit demands that state officials review potential environmental and public health dangers that could occur due to continued operation of Diablo Canyon.
California law mandates a project undergo an environmental review when any unusual circumstances exist, the lawsuit states. The World Business Academy claims there are numerous unusual circumstances surrounding Diablo Canyon. They include: high seismic risk; adverse health impacts from continuing emissions of radioactive isotopes; devastating impacts on marine life; potential adverse impacts from a terror attack; leakage and buildup of radioactive waste; and Diablo Canyon’s status as the sole remaining nuclear plant in California.
Rinaldo Brutoco, the president of the nonprofit, said any of the unusual circumstances should have triggered an environmental review.
“The commission refused to ask the tough questions about the safety and environmental impacts of Diablo Canyon because they feared that a full EIR process would alert the public to Diablo Canyon’s actual environmental and health impacts, thereby possibly forcing PG&E to shut down the plant immediately,” Brutoco said in a statement.
Last December, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, one of the members of the Lands Commission, called for there to be a full environmental review before making a decision on the lease extension. Newsom changed his stance in the aftermath of PG&E’s agreement to close Diablo Canyon by 2025.
At the June Lands Commission meeting, Newsom said more time is needed to plan for the closure of Diablo Canyon. He said San Onofre nuclear power plant shut down too abruptly in 2012.
Some local officials, including Sheriff Ian Parkinson, also said they needed more time to prepare for Diablo Canyon closing. Parkinson sited the budget losses the sheriff’s office faces.