Thursday, November 29, 2001 (SF Chronicle)

Power plant unnecessary, study says

Scott Winokur, Chronicle Staff Writer

 

A group opposed to the Mirant Corp.'s plan to build a fossil-fueled power

plant on Potrero Hill asserts in a new report that San Francisco has

practical "clean energy" alternatives that merit a closer look before the

Atlanta company gets officials' final approval for the project.

Alan Ramo, director of Golden Gate University's Environmental Justice Law

Clinic and attorney for the Oakland group, Communities for a Better

Environment, said he expected the 33-page study -- scheduled to be

released today at a City Hall news conference -- to affect deliberations

by the staff of the California Energy Commission.

Greg Karras, CBE's chief scientist and author of the report, said the

group also was calling on the energy commission to put the Mirant project

on hold until a municipal energy plan can be completed.

One is now being prepared by the city Department of the Environment and

city Public Utilities Commission. A draft of the plan is expected in

March; public hearings on the plan will be held today and Saturday.

CBE, which claims the Mirant project will increase pollution and impact

health in minority neighborhoods in the southeastern section of San

Francisco, has legal standing as an intervenor in the regulatory review

process.

 

"This is a blueprint for a reliable system with the least environmental

impact," Ramo said of the new report. "That's particularly important if

there's any sort of public power (in San Francisco). It gives a plan for

city policy in the future."

 

CEC spokeswoman Mary Ann Costamagna said it was likely the report -- which

hasn't been seen yet in Sacramento -- would be entered into the public

record and eventually considered by staff analysts.

Mirant spokesman Patrick Dorinson said company officials had not seen the

report and he could not immediately comment.

Scheduled to go to the CEC for final approval next spring and begin

operations in 2004, Mirant's Potrero proposal has been presented by the

company as an efficient and environmentally sensitive solution to San

Francisco's long-standing problem of over-reliance on outside energy

sources.

 

But the project has been fiercely criticized by a broad array of

detractors, including San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne and the

office of Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who represents much of the

predominately African American community that would be affected -- an area

already hard hit by health problems, such as asthma, worsened by

pollution.

 

The Bay Conservation and Development Commission also has expressed serious

reservations about the project, which would use 228 million gallons of

water from the bay daily to cool superheated turbines.

The report makes seven "findings," three of which reiterate previous

criticisms of the project, including claims that it would raise levels of

air and water pollution and provide San Francisco with more in-city

generation capacity than it needs.

 

The other findings spell out "clean power" alternatives, including power-

saving and power-generating strategies that would reduce the city's

fossil- fuel generation needs to 354 megawatts, enough for 354,000 users.

The remaining power necessary would be generated by a combination of

solar, cogeneration, fuel-cell, wind and hydro sources, according to CBE's

report, titled "Power and Justice."

 

Mirant's Potrero Hill natural-gas and distillate-oil fired operations

generate 363 megawatts; the proposed new facility would add 540 megawatts,

for a total of 903 fossil-fuel generated megawatts.

Power-saving strategies identified by CBE include replacement of existing

lighting and refrigeration with new energy-efficient appliances, and

improving coordination of energy consumption among residents and

businesses.

 

Public hearings on a long-term citywide energy plan are scheduled tonight

from 6:30-9:30 at Galileo High School, 1150 Francisco at Van Ness, and

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mission High School, 3750 18th St., and

4-7 p.m. at the Bayview Opera House