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
"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
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
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
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