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Polluting plant may close

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An epic battle waged by city leaders and residents and Pacific Gas and Electric Corp. to shutter a waterfront power plant may be on the verge of victory.

The aging, Mirant Corp.-owned Potrero Power Plant, which belches air pollution in southeastern San Francisco and scalds Bay water, could be shut down this year.

A power regulator will drop its controversial must-run requirement for the power plant once two PG&E rewiring projects are completed, the Sacramento-based group told The City via letter on Tuesday.

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“It took a village, which was the community and The City, to make this happen,” Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said Tuesday. “We all went after them and applied a lot of pressure.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera secured a legally binding agreement with Mirant last year that will see electricity generation end at the Potrero Power Plant once the regulator drops its must-run designation.

“At the end of this calendar year, we will have no polluting power plants in our city,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. “We’re rezoning the area around the plant for green tech and R&D.”

The two PG&E projects, which involve replacing aging wiring to protect against blackouts, should wrap up by November, spokesman Joe Molica said.

The company competes with Mirant, and it worked with city leaders to convince the regulator to drop Potrero Power Plant’s must-run requirement.

“We can provide for San Francisco’s energy needs,” Molica said Tuesday.

Joshua Arce, who led community lobbying efforts locally and in Sacramento, welcomed the news, but said “We’re still going to keep the pressure up” until the plant is shuttered.

With the support of supervisors Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly and Michela Alioto-Pier, PG&E and community activists defeated a previous plan that would have shuttered the plant by building a similar, but more modern, publicly owned power plant nearby.

After the Potrero plant closes, residents will receive power almost exclusively from other cities. Much of that power will be piped through a new cable between Pittsburg and San Francisco. The Trans-Bay Cable could be switched on this month.

Closure of the Potrero plant is contingent upon the cable’s reliable operation, under conditions outlined Tuesday by the regulator — the California Independent System Operator Corp.

 

Potrero Power Plant

Facts about the Mirant-owned facility:

Capacity: 362 megawatts
Fuel: Natural gas
Current owner: Mirant Corp.
Previous owner: PG&E
Workers employed: 32
Power operations began: 1901
Modern operations began: 1965

Source: Mirant Corp., PG&E

jupton@sfexaminer.com

Staff Writer Mike Aldax contributed to this report.

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