Power-plant opponents cry foul

Opponents of a plan to build new power plants in The City have charged in court documents filed Friday that city officials misled the public over the environmental andhealth benefits of the proposed plants.

A power plant in Potrero Hill called the Potrero Generating Plant generates enough electricity to power roughly 360,000 homes, using three diesel generators and a gas-fired generator, documents show.

In early November, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced an agreement with Mirant Corp. to close the plant as soon as the company is allowed to do so by federal and state regulators, including the California Independent Systems Operator, which regulates the state’s power.

As a replacement, a new $225 million, 150 megawatt power plant using natural-gas generators that state and city officials say is less polluting than the Mirant plant was approved by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 1.

According to an October 2006 decision on the project by the California Energy Commision, the plant would boost energy reliability, while discharging lower levels of nitrogen oxide than the Mirant plant.

At a July SFPUC meeting, General Manager Susan Leal told commissioners that emissions from the new plant would be minimal compared with the existing generators.

Three months later, Bay Area Air Quality Management District engineer Barry Young told commissioners during an Oct. 23 meeting that air pollution from the proposed new natural-gas-powered generators would create similar public health concerns to those from the existing gas generator, video archive of the meeting shows.

Young also said a 2006 air district anti-pollution law means the three diesel generators must be upgraded or switched off before 2010.

SFPUC spokesman Tony Whittaker told The Examiner that Young was expressing his own personal opinion about the public health concerns during the meeting, not an official position agreed upon by the air district.

Whittaker also said it’s unlikely that the privately operated diesel generators would be automatically shut down by the new air pollution laws. “There are many power plants that violate rules,” he said.

jupton@examiner.com

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