Friends of the Earth Sues PG&E Over Diablo Canyon Nuclear Extension

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“We hope our litigation can push PG&E to reconsider its potential breach and uphold its obligations, including preparing for the agreed-upon retirement,” FOE’s legal director explained.

This aerial photograph of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near Avila Beach, California was taken on December 1, 2021. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images) 


The environmental group Friends of the Earth on Tuesday sued Pacific Gas and Electric in a bid to block the California utility giant from breaching its contract to shutter the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant when the operating licenses for its two reactors expire in 2024 and 2025.

Friends of the Earth (FOE) explained the reason for its lawsuit, which was filed in San Francisco Superior Court, in a statement Tuesday:

In 2016, Friends of the Earth entered into a contract with PG&E to retire Diablo Canyon. This was in exchange for Friends of the Earth dropping a separate legal challenge over environmental and public safety concerns associated with the power plant’s continued operations. Diablo Canyon—California’s last remaining nuclear plant—is located in San Luis Obispo near at least three seismic fault lines, which puts the entire state at risk of a devastating accident. It also operates on an outdated cooling system that puts marine life and water quality at significant risk of harm.

Friends of the Earth’s new lawsuit follows recent actions by PG&E that indicate an intent to breach the 2016 contract. These include applying to the U.S. Department of Energy for funding to aid Diablo’s extended operations and securing approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue operating Diablo Canyon beyond the expiration of current operating licenses while NRC considers PG&E’s forthcoming license renewal applications.

“Contracts simply don’t vanish into thin air,” FOE legal director Hallie Templeton said in a statement. “Yet ever since California passed legislation supporting Diablo Canyon’s extension, PG&E has been acting as if our contract has disappeared.”

“Setting aside the agreement to retire Diablo, there are myriad legal prerequisites for extending operations of a nuclear power plant, including federal decisions that states cannot dictate,” Templeton added. “We hope our litigation can push PG&E to reconsider its potential breach and uphold its obligations, including preparing for the agreed-upon retirement.”

“Contracts simply don’t vanish into thin air.”

PG&E said last month that it would seek permission to keep Diablo Canyon operating for up to 20 more years. However, state officials have not said whether they will allow the plant to continue running after 2030. A law passed last year by the California Legislature allows the facility to remain operational for the remainder of this decade, while the Biden administration last November announced a billion-dollar bailout for PG&E to keep the plant running.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, and even some environmentalists favor keeping Diablo Canyon operational.