Mayor moving on peaker deal

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The Board of Supervisors had a little shake-up today in the middle of a conversation on the city's deal to build a new peaker power plant.

One of the biggest selling points from proponents of the $230 million natural gas fired power plant has been that it will receive the "Reliability Must Run" contract from CA-ISO, the state energy agency that dishes out those kinds of things. Right now the Mirant Potrero plant has that RMR, and city officials and activists have been trying for several years to get that plant to close down because it spews more filth into the air than a newer one would. Without an RMR, which essentially pays the power plant owner to NOT run unless needed during peak energy hours, it becomes financially dicey to keep the lights on, but Mirant has never definitively said they'd pull the plug if the city built its own power plant. Some folks, including us, have expressed concern that we could end up with two power plants.

Supervisor Tom Ammiano was intending to slap a couple of amendments onto the resolution the board heard today regarding the peaker plant, one of which would have urged the PUC to get an iron-clad guarantee from Mirant that they'd shut down. In the middle of the supes grilling the PUC on the peaker contract, Sup. Aaron Peskin interjected with the late-breaking news that Mayor Gavin Newsom was at that very moment negotiating with Mirant for a signed agreement that the plant would shutter for good if their RMR is removed.

Some of the supes seemed a little surprised by the news, if not miffed. (Gav's got a bit of a thing for trumping.) Rumors outside the chamber were that the Mayor's office has been working on this for awhile, and part of the negotiation may have to do with some city assistance with cleaning-up of the old power plant site and maybe a little fast-tracking of the permitting process for Mirant to put it to some other, more lucrative use. (Condos, anyone? Anyone around here need another $2 million condo?)

No one from the Mayor's office got up to speak about it (nor the Mayor himself, though it was his day to shine in front of the supervisors. More on that after Prop E passes.) They haven't issued a press release yet, and I swung by the press office but no one there knew anything about it. Supes Mirkarimi, Daly, and Alioto-Pier voted still voted against the resolution.

UPDATE:

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi tells us we got it wrong -- he introduced the resolution amendments, not Tom Ammiano. Sorry about that -- we missed the beginning of the hearing, and got the amendments through a fax from Ammiano's office. The hearing isn't up on SFGTV yet, so we'll take Mirkarimi's word that the amendments are part of the resolution.

They urge the SFPUC to do two things:
1. secure the closure of Mirant as a condition before operating the peakers. (Mayor's on that one.)

2. "...stipulate a controlled operating regimen that reduces the usage of the CT's as renewable in-city generation capacity comes on-line consequent to implementation of City's renewable energy plan under Community Choice Aggregation and other renewable power sources." (So, essentially, curb the peakers as we put up the solar panels.)

Also, here are some PDFs which prove the point commenter Eric Brooks makes below that the peakers will spit out about the same amount of pollution as Mirant does now:

Testimony of Bay Area Air Quality Management District's engineer Barry Young at 10/23 SFPUC hearing

Images that quantify the testimony