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Ballot Effort Tries to Close California Nuclear Plants

Santa Cruz man failed to qualify similar plan for November ballot after costs scared backers.

California voters would be asked to ban nuclear power plants under a ballot measure being sought by a Santa Cruz man who tried—and failed—to qualify a similar effort for the November ballot.

Ben Davis Jr. on Monday gave notice of an initiative petition for what he calls the California Nuclear Waste Act—which would effectively shut down Diablo Canyon and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station if placed on the ballot and approved by voters.

“The measure would halt generation of nuclear power in California pending certain actions by the United States government,” Davis wrote the state Attorney General’s Office.

He paid a $200 fee.

He sought the same in March 2011, but fell short of the needed 504,760 signatures by the April 16 deadline to place the measure on the Nov. 6, 2012, ballot.

In a five-page letter addressed to the attorney general’s initiative coordinator, Davis proposed amendments to the Public Resources Code, which voters would decide at the next general election.

Davis argues that nobody has found a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste, and the government hasn’t approved such “a demonstrated technology.”

He also calls nuclear fission “the least desirable means of producing electrical energy available in the State of California” and says fission isn’t needed to “meet the current or forecasted electrical energy needs of the state of California.”

So to protect ratepayers from “risk of unreasonable costs associated with ownership and operation of nuclear power plants,” he says California must close the plants south of San Clemente and near San Luis Obispo until safe means have been devised to operate fuel rods and store the waste.

The earlier effort failed, according to news reports, because anti-nuclear energy organizations withdrew their support after the California Legislative Analyst’s Office said the measure would cost local and state governments billions in dollars. [See attached PDF.]

“The statements made were thought to have had a ‘devastating’ impact on efforts to collect the much-needed signatures for the April deadline to place the measure on the November ballot,” according to Examiner.com.

In a November 2011 letter to state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and Director of Finance Ana J. Matosantos wrote:

“If this measure were enacted and led to the shutdown of Diablo Canyon and SONGS, the resulting cumulative impacts of the economic disruptions and price increases on state and local government finances—decreased revenues and increased costs—would potentially be in the billions of dollars annually.”

In addition, Taylor and Matosantos said, the closure of the two plans could lead to rolling blackouts and higher electricity rates for state customers.

A year ago, after Davis filed the initiative that sought to close the last two remaining nuclear power plants in California, he told Santa Cruz Patch that the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident reminded him that he “knew how to do this stuff”—challenge utilities.

“I learned about the Environmental Quality Act and how I could use it,” Davis says of his 1980s effort against a town outside of Sacramento to stop a curb and gutter project that would destroy 430 trees. (He failed.)

But “I learned how to file a lawsuit and I went on to file another one to save the Sacramento River’s natural habitat.”

Davis said “an affinity for the trees and the environment and the predicament of the planet” led him to his first legal forays. 

“It was also during the time of Chernobyl and the Three Mile Island accidents, when we all had a heightened awareness of radiation,” he told Patch in November 2011. “That kind of new technology is really turning us into an experiment. We are experimenting with nature in a way that is really dangerous.”

 Asked what he thought about Santa Cruz being a Nuclear Free Zone, he said:

 “I look forward to when California is a Nuclear Free Zone.”

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