Civil rights group sues
to block planned power turbines
By Julia Cheever
September 25, 2007
A civil rights group sued the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency in federal court in San Francisco yesterday in a bid to
block plans for a so-called "peaker" electric plant
in the Potrero Hill district of the city.
The proposed plant near the southeast city waterfront would consist
of three combustion turbines fired by natural gas and would be
used to provide energy during peak demand.
That plant and a fourth turbine to be located at San Francisco
International Airport are part of a city Electric Reliability
Project developed by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
San Francisco PUC spokesman Tony Winnicker said the new turbines
are needed to meet state requirements of generating some electricity
within the city and thus ensure that the old and polluting Mirant
Corp. power plant in the same neighborhood can be closed.
The lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco chapter of the A.
Philip Randolph Institute and San Francisco residents Lynne Brown
and Regina Hollins against the EPA and the Bay Area Air Quality
Management District. The district has the authority to issue a
The lawsuit asks for a court order requiring the EPA to begin
either regulating greenhouse gases or explaining why it cannot
do so, as required in a decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court
in April in a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts and 11 other states.
The lawsuit says EPA regulation would be likely to require an
environmental reassessment of the project. The suit asks the court
to block the new project until the EPA has acted.
Josh Arce, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, "The Public
Utilities Commission advocates the combustion turbine plant because
it will provide 'less pollution' than the existing Mirant plant.
But "legally, the community is entitled to no pollution,"
Arce contended. He said the city should consider alternatives
such as conservation or renewable energy options.
Winnicker said the proposed facility will generate 83 percent
less pollution than the Mirant plant and appears to be the only
way of shutting down that plant.
"It is important for people not to lose sight of the goal
of closing one of the most polluting plants in the state,"
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