Out with the old - Page 2

Southeastern San Francisco celebrates the end of the Potrero power plant

Sup. Sophie Maxwell, flanked by City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor Gavin Newsom, celebrates the closure

"This plant has been part of the reliable supply for San Francisco ... for a long time. And more recently, it actually provided the security for San Francisco should anything happen outside of San Francisco," Yakout Mansour, president and CEO of the CalISO said during the shutdown ceremony. "But the time is here to replace the plant with an alternative to make the city more secure and reliable with much less polluting options."

The CalISO issued a letter to the plant owner, which recently merged with another company and changed its name from Mirant to GenOn, stating that the must-run agreement would be terminated effective Jan. 1. The date of the final termination is Feb. 28, pending approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Now the major question is what will become of the power plant site, a vast strip of industrial real estate wedged between Illinois Street and the waterfront. "Many ideas have been thrown out there. People have come to us and said everything from office and industrial and research and development, to wind turbines," noted Sam Lauter, a local spokesperson for GenOn. Lauter noted that community meetings would be held soon to discuss the future site use.

The site was previously owned by PG&E, and the utility is responsible for cleaning up lingering toxic residue including lampblack, a byproduct of coal processing, left behind when PG&E sold the site. Because of the pollution, residential units cannot legally be constructed on the site, even after cleanup.

There is one unfortunate consequence to shuttering the plant. According to plant manager Mike Montany, five or six of the 28 employees of the plant will lose their jobs. The rest will either retire or go to work at a new facility, he said.

While San Francisco will be poised to ring in the new year with improved air quality thanks to the elimination of its last polluting energy facility, residents of the area where the city's power will now be sourced from won't be so lucky. They are faced with the construction of two new power plants. The undersea Trans Bay Cable will run from the PG&E's substation in San Francisco — a humming network of cables and transformers located beside the power plant that will stay put after the shutdown — to a generating station in Pittsburg, located in the delta near the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

GenOn owns the Pittsburg power plant, and it recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new power plant in neighboring Antioch, called Marsh Landing. At the same time, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recently gave the green light for another new power plant in that area. The $1.5 billion PG&E facility would be located in Oakley, which borders Antioch. It won commission approval Dec. 16, despite an earlier decision rejecting the proposal.

The plans for new power plants were approved just after the conclusion of an important United Nations convention on Climate Change in Cancún, Mexico, and amid news reports highlighting scientists' conclusion that polar bears have a shot at survival only if serious efforts are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While the cheerful ceremony to shut down the Potrero power plant was a satisfying conclusion to a long battle, there's a long road yet ahead in the overarching struggle against climate change.


The key missing piece of the puzzle in your report is the fact that, had two of the figurehead politicians mentioned in your report had their way, there would still be an operating, polluting fossil fuel power plant in San Francisco long into the middle of this century.

Far more than work by the political leaders mentioned in this article, It was decades of grassroots organizing by Southeast residents and environmental groups that secured this plant closure; not Maxwell, Herrera, and Newsom (the latter who only jumped on Board at the very end of the process). And Maxwell and Herrera (closely and cynically manipulating with their big money developer supporters) spent nearly a decade trying to force a new polluting plant on the border of the Bayview Hunters Point, so that the Potrero plant could be closed more quickly; thereby doubling the value of real estate in the Pier 70 area.

For decades, organizers like Greenaction, Espanola Jackson and many others, fought tooth and nail against -any- power plants in the Southeast, and succeeded in closing one of them, the PG&E Hunters Point plant.

In 2007, Brightline Defense Project, Our City, the SF Green Party, and Sierra Club also joined in the fight, focusing on the crucial point of challenging the Cal ISO's and SF Public Utilities Commission's false claims that the City needed either old -or- new plants.

It was this final concerted push to call bs on the notion that the San Francisco must have fossil fuel generation that at last tipped the scales, pulled the curtain back from Cal ISO's and the SFPUC's deceptions, and convinced a majority of the Board of Supervisors (led by an unusual and principled alliance between Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and Michela Alioto-Pier) to get rid of -both- the new plant and Potrero.

Being a clever campaigner (and knowing he was about to run for Mayor) Dennis Herrera then leapt in at the very end of this fray to sue for quicker closure of Potrero, but in reality, he had almost nothing whatsoever to do with the decades long fight to truly rid the City of fossil fuel plants. On the contrary, Herrera had been a shameless NIMBY promoter of building that new polluting plant to get rid of the old one in his own neighborhood; until grassroots organizing put a stop to his and Sophie Maxwell's plans.

It was in spite of, not because of, Herrera and Maxwell that a true power plant free San Francisco has been achieved.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Dec. 29, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

When will the plant be removed, have they set a date for plant removal?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 20, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

Hyperbole-free. I actually learned a lot from this article.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Dec. 30, 2010 @ 11:41 pm

Steve Moss claims he was instrumental in closing the plant.

Why do I suspect something amiss......

Posted by Guest on Jan. 02, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

Actually Moss did help argue the case against both the proposed new plant and old Potrero plant by crunching the data to show clearly that fossil fuel generation was not needed in San Francisco. For some time, he was the sole dissenting voice on the Power Plant Taskforce speaking and voting against the new plant.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jan. 03, 2011 @ 2:37 am

As a longtime resident, I'm breathing easier. No pun intended.

Posted by Ian Waters on Jan. 20, 2011 @ 3:57 pm