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Solar advocates said that a so-called “monthly tax” on rooftop solar customers that was included in a proposal to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California has been removed from the legislation at the urging of industry supporters.

The Solar Rights Alliance said that the authors of Senate Bill 846, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s push to approve a $1.4 billion loan to keep Diablo Canyon running, clarified that the legislation “will not impose a solar tax on the solar energy produced and consumed” by solar customers.

The Environmental Working Group also joined the last-minute push against a potential “nonbypassable solar tax of up to $60 a month” that the group attributed to utility interests.


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California legislators are expected to vote this week on the proposal to extend Diablo Canyon’s life by five years. Newsom has said the extension is needed to ward off blackouts and advance clean-energy goals amid a warming climate.

There have been competing studies about whether extending operation of the decades-old reactors would gouge ratepayers, or be a bargain. The plant is located within a web of earthquake faults, and the prospect of a longer lifespan has reignited long-running disputes over seismic safety that have shadowed the plant since construction began in the 1960s.

A last-minute push from both sides included a letter to legislators from Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, reiterating her support for an extended run.

To pass, the proposal needs a two-thirds vote in the state Assembly and Senate, a threshold that can be difficult to reach. Meanwhile, a group of Democratic legislators unveiled a rival plan that would speed up development of renewable power and transmission lines, while leaving intact plans to shutter the plant located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco by 2025.

If it is approved, plant operator Pacific Gas & Electric plans to seek a share of $6 billion the Biden administration has set aside to rescue nuclear plants at risk of closing. But if the money doesn’t come through, the state could consider backing out of the deal.

The plant began running in the mid-1980s, and it isn’t known what the cost of deferred maintenance will be, given that PG&E was preparing to close the plant. PG&E also would need approval to keep running from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a process that has not started and sometimes takes years to complete.

Issues from the safe storage of spent nuclear fuel to adequately staffing the plant for a potentially longer run are also in the mix.

President Joe Biden has embraced nuclear power generation as part of his strategy to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

This story includes reporting from the Associated Press.

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