Their neighborhood

PG&E and its proxies fight public power, here and in the San Joaquin Valley

Some interesting mail landed in the boxes of Potrero Hill residents last week: flyers with a photograph of industrial stacks spewing plumes of pollution. They read, "Potrero Hill doesn't need three more power plants in our neighborhood."

There's a handy clip-out membership card to join the Close It! Coalition, from which you can "find out more about the city's rush to judgment and their plan to put more power plants in our neighborhood." The return address on the card is 77 Beale, which isn't in "our" neighborhood at all.

It's the address of the downtown headquarters of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

The utility, in the guise of a grassroots community organization, is opposing the contract that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is currently hammering out with a private company, J-Power USA, to build a new 145-megawatt, natural gas–<\d>fired power plant on a four-acre plot at 25th and Maryland streets. The plant would be owned and operated by J-Power for a period of 10 to 12 years, after which the title would turn over to the city.

This so-called peaker plant, one of three that would run when San Francisco's power needs exceed the normal load, would be cleaner burning than Mirant's dirty old Potrero Hill power plant, which city officials and environmentalists want closed. Mirant's "Reliability Must Run" contract with the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) could be terminated once the three peakers (whose generators the city received years ago through a lawsuit settlement) are built, according to the SFPUC.

Though PG&E, which has a questionable environmental record, claims to be against the peaker plants for pollution reasons, public power advocates say this is really opposition to the city owning its power sources. "PG&E has finally gone over the line. This is a good thing because this is so egregious and so transparent," said Joe Boss, a Dogpatch resident who received the mailer. "They'll do all they can do to kill public power in San Francisco."

Boss and a group of neighborhood activists who support the construction of the peakers have put together their own mailer countering the claims of the Close It! Coalition, which has been dormant lately but was active prior to 2006, when community activists were fighting for the shuttering of PG&E's Hunters Point power plant.

Other anti–<\d>public power literature also circulated recently in supervisorial district 11, where the California Urban Issues Project sent a flyer urging residents to oppose Community Choice Aggregation, the city's gradual public power plan that is focused mostly on renewable energy sources. The mailer was apparently sent before the Board of Supervisors voted to approve the plan, which it did in June.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi, who coauthored the CCA legislation with Sup. Tom Ammiano, called the CUIP flyer "shameful" and told the Guardian, "This is signature PG&E, but it's not just PG&E. It now very well implicates the [Gavin] Newsom administration either with complicity or silence." The CUIP board includes Committee on Jobs director Nathan Nayman, small-business advocate and Newsom appointee Jordanna Thigpen, Democratic Party political consultant Rich Schlackman, Golden Gate Restaurant Association executive director Kevin Westlye, and other Newsom supporters.

Newsom signed the CCA legislation but tacked on a letter vaguely expressing concerns about the plan. He recently authored a letter to Cal-ISO expressing his support for the peaker project.