State Regulator Finally Agrees To Close Entire Potrero Power Plant In 2010
Cal-ISO Letter To Mayor Gavin Newsom Carries The News That Community Leaders, Environmentalists, And Elected Officials Have Sought For Years
January 13, 2010, San Francisco, CA—Yesterday, from a secluded office park in a remote corner of Folsom where a little-known quasi-regulatory agency called the California Independent System Operator wields nearly absolute control over the state's dirtiest power plants, came a letter that an array of San Francisco community leaders, environmental groups, and elected officials have fought for years to receive: the Potrero Power Plant, and all of it, is coming down this year.
Mayor Gavin Newsom delivered the news following months of hard-pressed negotiations with Cal-ISO CEO Yakout Mansour in which the Mayor and entire San Francisco city family sought to nail down the slippery ISO to a 2010 closure date. "At the end of the calendar year, we will have no polluting power plants in our city," Newsom told the San Francisco Examiner. Both City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Supervisor Sophie Maxwell have lived in proximity to the old power plant and sought this day for the past ten years, and an August 2009 agreement Herrera struck with the Mirant Corporation guarantees power plant closure with yesterday's action. State Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee have joined the chorus calling for Cal-ISO action in recent months.
The real story in yesterday's news, however, is that the City is shutting down the Potrero Plant without building new power plants to replace it, and without an increase in fossil-fuel generation elsewhere. In the summer of 2008, the improbable quartet of Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier, Ross Mirkarimi, Chris Daly, and Tom Ammiano combined with Mayor Newsom to shoot down a controversial proposal to build new power plants between Bayview-Hunters Point and Potrero Hill that would have satisfied Cal-ISO's desire for as much fossil fuel generation as possible in the city. Shortly thereafter, San Francisco Public Utilities Commissioners David Hochschild and Richard Sklar led their Commission to pass a policy mandating shut-down of the Potrero Plant without new power plants, while Newsom engaged the ISO head-on.
"Many of us learned about this effort through [longtime Bayview-Hunters Point community leader] Espanola Jackson and her call for environmental justice," said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce. "It takes a long time to close a power plant, but in the last five years we've shuttered two, at Hunters Point and Potrero," said San Francisco Community Power Executive Director Steven Moss. "It's a testament to the communties' tenacity." Long-standing efforts by SF Community Power and the Potrero Power Plant Task Force were joined by a diverse army of environmental and social justice activists including the Sierra Club, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, SPUR, Environmental Defense, Green for All, the San Francisco Green Party, Brightline Defense Project, and Our City to achieve closure of the Potrero Power Plant without building new power plants.