Potrero power-plant proposal sparks opposition legislation

A new contract to build power plants in The City to replace a more-polluting plant in Potrero Hill is expected to be introduced to the Board of Supervisors next week — but one city legislator has drafted legislation that could nix or further delay the project, which has been debated for more than seven years.

In October, a contract with another company set to build the power plant was approved 8-3 by the Board of Supervisors, after being told that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office had reached a deal with Mirant Corp., the owner of the older plant, to close it down after the new power source was up and running.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission recently announced it reached a new $250 million deal with Ohio-based Industrial Construction Co. Inc. to build a 150-megawatt natural gas-burning plant north of the Islais Creek Channel in The City’s southeast and a 48-megawatt natural gas-burning plant at the airport.

The California Department of Water Resources would funnel $32.5 million a year from utility companies’ rates toward the project until 2015, according to department official Richard Grix. If the plants start operating by 2010, that could provide 80 percent of the project’s construction costs.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell said she’s “very glad” that the supervisors will finally be able to vote on a deal that could shut down the air-polluting Potrero Hill plant, which is in her district. “We’ll be generating our own power and we’ll be able to market it,” she said.

Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, however, said she will introduce legislation that, if passed, would force The City to re-evaluate the need and fiscal impacts of the project.

The City should develop alternative energy sources, Alioto-Pier said, adding that a planned power project called the Transbay Cable, would offset the need for new plants.

The Transbay Cable will deliver enough electricity from Pittsburg to San Francisco to more than offset the lost capacity from the Mirant plant in the coming years, according to figures provided by project manager Sam Wehn.

SFPUC general manager for power Barbara Hale said the California Independent System Operator requires The City to build new in-city power plants before the Mirant plant can be shut down.

California ISO spokeswoman Stephanie McCorkle told The Examiner that The City has not formally proposed any plans other than the new gas-burning plant to shut down the Mirant plant.

“We’re always willing to look at something,” she said.

jupton@examiner.com

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