LAFCo to SFPUC: Hurry it up already!

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Supervisor David Campos sent a clear message at the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) meeting on Jan. 23, emphasizing that he was eager to move beyond the delays that have hindered progress on Community Choice Aggregation. Commissioners Michael Bornstein and Ross Mirkarimi -- who represents District 5 on the Board of Supervisors -- echoed his concerns, along with an array of community members who turned out to speak during the public-comment session. Meanwhile, a few members of the public warned that further delays might amount to missing the boat on federal funding for alternative-energy programs, which the Obama administration is expected to make available in the near future.

Campos, who represents District 9 on the Board of Supervisors, is also the newest LAFCo commissioner. The city agency is charged with monitoring and advising the San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s efforts to develop and implement a Community Choice Aggregation program, which was mandated in 2004 by the Board of Supervisors to help ensure the “provision of clean, reasonably priced, and reliable electricity.” A CCA program would allow the city and county of San Francisco to become its own wholesale power purchaser for citizens. The plan includes targets for purchasing power generated from renewable resources such as wind and solar, with a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2040. But the process of getting CCA off the ground has been moving along at a snail pace.

Contractors who responded to requests for assistance with implementing CCA that were put out some six months ago are still waiting to have contracts issued and tasks assigned. LAFCo has been waiting for the SFPUC to issue the contracts, and commissioners voiced disapproval at the Jan. 23 meeting that so little action had been taken. “I don’t see a reason why this decision is not solidified by next month,” Sup. Ross Mirkarimi noted.

Campos expressed concern that the SFPUC was moving too slowly, questioning “the extent to which there is commitment to move forward quickly on the part of the [SFPUC]. Coming in as a new commissioner, it’s not very encouraging to me.”

Barbara Hale, representing the SFPUC, responded by saying that part of the reason deadlines hadn’t been met was that there hadn’t been dedicated CCA staff until very recently. In December, the SFPUC hired a new program director, Michael Campbell, who was out of town during the Jan. 23 meeting. At press time, Hale had not returned repeated phone calls and emails seeking a bio for Campbell -- but we do know that he formerly worked for PG&E.

Meanwhile, during public comment, many chimed in to urge that LAFCo issue all CCA contracts in the interest of time.

“It’s been very frustrating,” said John Rizzo, representing the Sierra Club. “It has been stuck for six months. Pass all of the contracts -- we can’t wait. Global warming can’t wait.”

“I’ve been dismayed by how long this project has taken,” said Jeanne Rosenmeier, who chairs the city’s Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force.

The Obama administration has promised strong support for projects that would encourage alternative-energy generation as part of the economic-recovery package, and CCA could snag some of that federal funding if it is in a position to move forward by the time the bill is passed. As one commenter put it, “It’s not an opportunity you want to have slip by because the date got past you.”

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