November 26, 2022
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Our View: Newsom offers a glimmer of hope to keep Diablo Canyon open

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To call California Gov. Gavin Newsom a pragmatist when it comes to climate change would probably be an overstatement.

He’s been stalwart in burnishing his green credentials when it comes to renewables and mitigating the impact of a warming planet. But Newsom’s pragmatic instincts were on display in late April when he opened the door just a crack to extending the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant’s operating license beyond its scheduled 2025 shutdown.

The impetus for the move was, in a word, money. The Biden administration is dangling $6 billion in incentives for keeping nuclear plants operating beyond their scheduled shutdown dates, and Newsom told the Los Angeles Times he would look into applying for some of the funding.

Located near San Luis Obispo, the PG&E-owned plant has a big economic impact on San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County. Keeping it open would preserve jobs and take some of the pressure off of hydroelectric power at a time when drought has made dependence on normally reliable hydro a risky bet.

Eventually, a combination of renewables and batteries and a smarter grid could meet California’s increasing demand for electricity. But with Diablo Canyon accounting for some 10% of California’s electric generation capacity with zero greenhouse gas emissions, the added incentives for keeping the plant open were something that Newsom found hard to resist.

He also finds it hard to resist making headlines, and U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, was right to call him out for not getting buy-in from nuclear safety officials, environmental advocates, labor and others before he let the word out.

Newsom’s office followed up with a statement that any extension for Diablo Canyon would be limited and that the closing of the plant “in the long term” is still part of official policy. The state has until May 18 to submit a proposal, and we’ll be watching to see how far Newsom decides to press this issue. If he does, the Biden administration is likely to go along.

SLO LOSES A BUSINESS LEGEND

The thing about Jim Copeland is that he never lost the small-town attitude that made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the Central Coast.

Not one to grab the limelight, Copeland and his younger brother Tom built one of the most successful sporting goods chains on the West Coast before selling it in 2006 to what would later become Dick’s Sporting Goods.

They went on to a second career as developers, and the revitalization of downtown San Luis Obispo owes a lot to their vision and sense of place. The sale of one of their downtown holdings in 2013 for $100 million was a landmark deal for the city.

Their third effort was in philanthropy, where they made major gifts to French Hospital Medical Center, arts organizations and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. A recent gift endowed Elijah McCoy scholarships for Black engineering students.

Jim Copeland never really asked for credit and was hardly ever in the public spotlight. He died April 25 at age 80.

He will be missed by his family, his community and all who knew him.