SFPUC shuffle - Page 2

Powerful commission lies dormant until the mayor can find picks acceptable to the board

But it's likely that the first matter of business for the new SFPUC will be responding to board recommendations that are sure to flow from an August hearing into CH2M Hill's study on the feasibility of retrofitting Mirant's Potrero units 4, 5, and 6.

Leal believes the retrofit plan is "sketchy at best."

"I think that trying to retrofit a 1973 plant is like one former PUC commissioner thinking you can repair the 50-year-old digesters out at the southeast wastewater treatment plant," Leal told the Guardian, referring to Sklar's equally unpopular attempt to block a costly but necessary rebuild of the SFPUC's sewage digesters.

"To me, this is Mirant and PG&E still deciding whether there will be something polluting in the air," Leal added.

On July 22, at its last meeting before being disbanded, the Sklar-led SFPUC voted to rescind its former plan to build a new peaker power plant in the city's southeast sector, and to instead pursue the Mirant retrofit.

Sup. Bevan Dufty notes that a retrofit of this kind "hasn't been done anywhere else in the world." Board President Aaron Peskin observes that, "unlike the peaker plan, which was subjected to thousands of pages of analysis, the retrofit plan was cooked up behind closed doors with no public hearings."

Noting that Mirant only needs a building permit to keep operating at the site, Peskin says that is why he joined Sups. Sophie Maxwell, Jake McGoldrick, and Dufty in introducing legislation to require conditional use permits of future power plants.

"ATM machines, bakeries, and restaurants need conditional uses, so why not power plants?" Peskin said.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi believes the peakers and retrofit are competing as the lesser of two evils, which is one reason why he and Ammiano wrote the fall ballot measure called the Clean Energy Act, which would create ambitious goals for renewable power. Mirkarimi told us, "There needs to be a robust campaign for a third plan that combines a transmission-only mandate and a strong renewable energy mechanism that compensates for the Mirant shutdown."