Sierra Club Says Closing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Could Move California Backwards on Climate. Are the Club's Efforts Sincere, or Just Public Relations?

In a Protest with the California Public Utilities Commission, the Sierra Club — which has been anti-nuclear since the early 1970s — says closing California's last nuclear plant could increase carbon emissions and efforts to replace it with other forms of clean energy could be "illusory."

Sierra Club has significant concerns that the Application’s proposed greenhouse gas mitigation is illusory and could even move California backward in meeting its decarbonization objectives.

Is this a sign that the Club is sincere about carbon emissions? Or just more public relations to reassure the public that it cares about climate change — and not just tearing down nuclear plants?

History suggests it's just public relations. In May, Sierra Club Executive Director, Mike Brune, told to the Wall Street Journal he would oppose closing Diablo Canyon unless he could be sure it would be replaced by 100 percent renewables. 

But in June, shortly after the Journal reported that the Club was supporting keeping existing nuclear plants running until they could be replaced by renewables, the Club put out a statement saying it supported closing nuclear plants — and endorsed PG&E's plan to close Diablo Canyon. 

Here again, Brune tried to have it both ways, hinting the Club's commitment was contingent on the plant being replaced:

It's important to hold PG&E to that commitment. Diablo needs to be replaced with additional clean energy -- above and beyond what it would otherwise have developed -- by the time the plant shuts down less than 10 years from now.

That sounds good — but it's exactly the same line Brune and the Club took with the closure of San Onofre nuclear plant, which was replaced almost entirely with natural gas — which Brune himself acknowledged:

We made an argument when San Onofre came off line, on an accelerated timeline that we in an ideal world would have benefitted from, that we were arguing for…but we weren’t able to win the policy…

In his interview with the Journal, Brune called climate change "the world’s biggest problem," but if he really believed it, then the Club wouldn't be doing precisely what it did before the closure of San Onofre, politely protesting and then allowing a dramatic expansion of natural gas. 

If Brune and the Sierra Club really thought climate was "the world's biggest problem," they'd have hundreds of people in front of the headquarters of PG&E, NRDC and FOE — as well as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which remains under federal criminal investigation, and continues to hide secret emails relating to its role in forcing the premature closure of San Onofre — doing this:

Sierra Club President Aaron Muir getting arrested in Washington, D.C. last April.

Sierra Club President Aaron Muir getting arrested in Washington, D.C. last April.