I often tell people it's important to speak truth to power. Today I want to speak truth about power.
Hunter Stern's recent opinion article in The San Francisco Examiner about CleanPowerSF and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission badly needs some truth. It's the sort of thing you might have thought came from PG&E. Stern represents the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 which, though he didn't mention it, represents PG&E workers.
Stern's mistakes — let's call them mistakes — begin in his very first paragraph, where he says the SFPUC “appropriately rejected” a contract with Shell Energy. That is wrong.
The SFPUC already has approved a framework for working with Shell Energy. What the SFPUC dropped the ball on was setting rates for CleanPowerSF, which would allow the process to go forward as originally intended. Not doing so is a convenient way to try to monkey-wrench a program that San Franciscans badly want and the Board of Supervisors approved. And that the environment needs.
CleanPowerSF was something I worked to create when I was on the Board of Supervisors, before San Franciscans elected me to represent them in Sacramento.
Today, San Francisco can move into the era of clean power, with a greenhouse gas-free source. All we need is for the SFPUC to set those rates. Instead, they looked at their shoes and did nothing. If they were getting the kind of advice Stern is providing, it's not surprising that they were confused.
Stern is also wrong about the source of that energy. Shell has committed, in a letter to the SFPUC, to provide all the energy from “a carbon-neutral energy supply” — all from within California, all produced with union labor.
While he pooh-poohs renewable energy credits used in the process, the reality is that they represent verifiable, renewable power sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. That is renewable energy. Meanwhile, I'm told PG&E failed to even meet the 20 percent state minimum for renewable energy from 2010-12.
He also throws stones at the Local Agency Formation Commission, because it is paid to work toward the clean-energy future. As a past chairman of LAFCO, I can tell you it's not just an administrative fee. It is the LAFCO staff that has been working to make sure the Shell Energy contract would get us off on the right foot to making San Francisco energy independent while reducing greenhouse gases.
With union-operated facilities, as I said before.
He's wrong on the bond issue, too. The bonds approved when I was on the Board of Supervisors could provide much more than the $100 million in energy infrastructure Stern speaks about in just the first phase of build-out. Paying off those bonds is simple, once we get CleanPowerSF rolling along.
So PG&E needs to stop acting like the rate structure is something electrified and deadly to touch. It's what we need to get to a powerful, clean future.
Tom Ammiano is a state assemblyman whose 17th District covers San Francisco.