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Mirant Agrees to Shut Down Potrero Power Plant by 2010

Submitted by admin on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 3:46pm
State Regulators To Meet As Early As September 10 To Review Proposal To Close San Francisco’s Last Fossil Fuel-Burning Plant

San Francisco, CA, August 13, 2009 – One year ago, San Francisco was on the verge of spending $270 million to build brand new power plants in Bayview-Hunters Point that would replace Potrero Hill’s dirty Potrero Power Plant.  A once-in-a-lifetime coalition led by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, and Tom Ammiano joined a chorus of environmental and community groups, including Sierra Club, Green for All, the Ella Baker Center, Environmental Defense, Greenaction, Brightline, and the San Francisco Green Party, to turn the City around and forge a cleaner, greener path to closing the Potrero Plant without building any new power plants.

That day has come, as Mirant Corporation today signed an agreement with the City and County of San Francisco to shut its entire 360-megawatt gas-burning Potrero Power Plant by the end of 2010.  City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office released a press statement this afternoon and it appears that the City is now well-positioned to make the case to the California Independent System Operator as early as September 10 that the Potrero Plant can start shutting down next year.
“This was David moving Goliath,” said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce.  “We felt that as long as community and environmental support from Supervisors Mirkarimi, Alioto-Pier, Daly, and Ammiano remained strong we had a chance.  When Mayor Newsom joined our coalition last summer to say ‘no’ to new power plants, the dominoes began to fall.”

For years the state Independent System Operator (ISO) insisted that San Francisco keep 200 megawatts of fossil fuel generation in the city to prepare for the rare instance of two power lines going out on an unusually hot summer day.  That led most city officials to believe that the only way to close the Potrero Plant was to build at least 200 megawatts of new power plants to replace it.

Last June, however, state regulators caved and conceded that the actual gap in terms of “reliability” in the city called for 150 megawatts, rather than 200.  Legislation introduced by Supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Alioto-Pier in May of this year highlighted that this number has shrunk even further, to no more than 25 megawatts.

“This sounds great as long as we’re not talking about [a recent SF Public Utilities Commission proposal] putting a 50-megawatt generator South of Market,” said Eric Brooks of the San Francisco Green Party.  “Just this June the California Energy Commission denied the City of Chula Vista a power plant permit to cover its own 25-megawatt gap, saying that rooftop solar power is a viable alternative.”