10.16 Approved Minutes

CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO

COMMISSION ON THE ENVIRONMENT

OPERATIONS COMMITTEE

 

*RESCHEDULED MEETING

APPROVED MINUTES

Tuesday, October 16, 2007, 4:00 P.M.

Department of the Environment

11 Grove Street, Eco Center

San Francisco, CA 94102

 

 


*The Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 4:00 p.m. meeting was rescheduled to Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 4:00 p.m.

 

COMMITTEE MEMBERS:  Commissioners Alan Mok (Chair); Paul Pelosi Jr. and Darian Rodriguez Heyman

 

ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

1.      Call to Order and Roll Call.  The Operations Committee meeting was called to order at 4:08 p.m.  Present:  Chair Mok, Commissioners Paul Pelosi Jr. and Darian Rodriguez Heyman.

 

2.      Approval of Minutes of the July 16, 2007 Operations Committee Rescheduled Meeting (Explanatory Document:  Approved Minutes of the July 16, 2007 Meeting) (Discussion and Action).  Upon Motion by Commissioner Pelosi Jr. and second by Commissioner Rodriguez Heyman, the July 16, 2007 Meeting Minutes were approved (AYES:  Chair Mok, Commissioners Pelosi Jr. and Darian Rodriguez Heyman).  Commissioner Heyman asked that Ms. Rosenmoss provide a follow up to the Committee on the July 16 agenda item on new grants received by the Department.

 

3.      Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time. 

 

4.      Update on the Closure of Potrero Unit 3 Power Plant (Informational Report and Discussion). (Explanatory Document:  SFERP Project)

Sponsor:  Commissioner Paul Pelosi, Jr.

Speaker:  Anne Eng, Environmental Justice Program Manager, Department of the Environment 

 

Ms. Anne Eng reported on the current status of the City’s efforts to build the San Francisco Electricity Reliability Project (SFERP), also known as combustion turbines “CTs” and how this project relates to the closure of the Mirant Potrero Power Plant.  Ms. Eng reported that the Mirant plant is more than 40 years old, considered inefficient, and a cause of pollution. It was stated that typically power plants of this kind have an operational life of about 30 years. The power plant did go through upgrades, but is not considered an efficient plant.  The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) received approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC) for a license for SFERP.  Since that approval, the SFPUC has been negotiating with the California Department of Water Resources for a power purchase agreement to secure financing and working with a company called J Power to design and build the SFERP facility.  Details about those negotiations could be found in the July 10, 2007 SFPUC meeting minutes.

Ms. Eng explained that environmental groups filed a petition with the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) complaining about Mirant’s continuing use of once through cooling at the Potrero Power Plant in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.  The once-through cooling system causes significant, adverse impacts to the Bay’s aquatic life.  The RWQCB renewed Mirant’s NPDES wastewater discharge permit allowing it to continue using once-through cooling, but the permit will expire on December 31, 2008.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a Final Determination of Compliance for SFERP that is being challenged.

 

Ms. Nora Vargas, Executive Director, Latino Issues Forum, a statewide non-profit organization working on environmental issues that are impacting Latino communities across the state.  Ms. Vargas explained that the Latino Issues Forum is working on energy issues with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the California legislature and wants to make sure that the concerns and potential impacts of power generation facilities are adequately addressed.  It was stated that it is critical to have an inclusive public process prior to moving forward with the development of new power generation facilities.  Ms. Vargas stated that this process should include a proactive plan that engages the environmental communities that will be most impacted by this plan.  It was recommended that there be a clear assessment of health facts and a thorough analysis of all of the alternatives that are going to be put forth.  Ms. Vargas for the Latino Issues Forum asked the City of San Francisco to develop and implement a public comprehensive process prior to moving forward as they do not believe this has been done.

 

Commissioner Rodriguez Heyman asked what Ms. Vargas felt would be the ideal process.  Ms. Vargas stated that many of the environmental justice groups should be brought together, and Potrero Hill residents should be kept abreast of what is going on through open forums for discussions.  It was stated that meetings are public, but often times they are held when people are working and they don’t have the information they need.  

 

Public Comment of speakers speaking in opposition to the San Francisco Electric Reliability Project (SFERP) in the Potrero neighborhood: Orieyonna Q. Johnson; Renita Abram, Close it Coalition; Abram Gomez; Verla Williams; Joseph Bryant, Close it Coalition; Eddie Kittrell, Pharmc; Tauvaga Tui; Alan Bryant Jr.; Leesha Langlois; Dennis Lumsey.  Speakers voiced opposition to locating the SFERP project in the Potrero Hill neighborhood citing concerns with health impacts to residents because of the proximity of the plant to residences and childcare centers.  Speakers requested that community residents be given an opportunity to provide input into the SFPUC proceedings and voiced that they want the Mirant power plant closed and replaced with alternatives that would provide a cleaner source of energy. It was noted that many residents in the neighborhood have misguided information leading them to agree with the project and if facts were known, they would be opposed.  A speaker had explained that a petition with 950 signatures in opposition to the project was available. It was also stated that these "peakers" would result in a citywide health and pollution issue for all neighborhoods, not only for Potrero Hill.

 

Commissioner Rodriguez Heyman requested (1) a definition of the term “peakers” (2) a perspective be provided on the statement that the current plant is outdated and inefficient and how that would compare to the proposed plant; and (3) an explanation of the process--have alternatives been considered and has outreach been done?  Ms. Eng explained that she manages the Department of the Environment’s Environmental Justice Program and participated in the state site certification proceedings mainly giving support to the SFPUC to help develop mitigation and community benefits plan for the peakers.  She is someone who has some familiarity with the project at the Department of the Environment, but the SFPUC is the lead agency given the responsibility to develop the outreach plan on this project.  Ms. Eng stated public meetings were held in the community in the evening hours and approximately 40 public meetings were held on this project throughout many years. An outreach team at the SFPUC did direct mailings sending out public notices.  While City agencies attempt to conduct effective outreach, it is difficult to reach everyone. The State and Air District have issued approval for the project, but the City has not yet approved the project.  There will be a public meeting on this issue at City Hall.  Ms. Eng explained that there has been a Potrero Power Plant Task Force meeting on a monthly basis for many years discussing this issue as their main meeting focus. 

 

Ms. Eng explained that the Mirant Power Plant that was purchased ten years ago from PG&E has been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for forty years way past its useful operational life.  The City’s peaker plants will be operated to meet the City’s peak needs in certain hours of the day, certain times of the year when we have loads or demand on electricity, and you can’t import all of the electricity that we need.  These peaker plants are designed to address those peak loads.  They will be permitted to operate up to 12,000 hours a year.  An evaluation has been completed by the state’s air quality technical team that is projecting the City’s peakers will actually operate less than the permitted level. There is documentation available on the results. The project will have emissions, and the City has to mitigate those emission impacts.  It was stated that the City is proposing a fund of 1 million dollars as a community benefits package for this project that would involve devoting $500,000 to tree planting and $500,000 for asthma services. The SFPUC is taking the lead and required by the Air District to offset the emissions and to make sure the impacts are not significant. Ms. Eng explained that the stated goal for this project is to reduce pollution by using this project to retire Mirant’s plant.  The State Independent Systems Operator (CAISO) has the authority to determine how to dispatch power plants and how they should be run, and said they would not release Mirant’s plant from the Reliability Must Run (RMR) agreements unless the City operates the CTs.  The CAISO is dictating this as a condition for release of Mirant’s RMR contracts.

 

Public Speaker stated that there is no guarantee that if these peakers are installed, that the Mirant power plant would be closed.  Ms. Eng stated that he should speak to Mirant or SFPUC on this issue.  Mirant representatives have said that when that RMR contract is released, and they get an affirmative statement from FERC, that they would stop running the Mirant plant. Public Speaker asked:  How old are the peakers?  Ms. Eng stated that the peakers have jet engines, combustion turbines.  Public speaker stated that the peakers were purchased in 1998 so they had to be built prior to 1998, so they are probably 90’s technologies--so 20th century technology, not 21st century technology.  Director Blumenfeld asked what would happen if we didn’t build the peakers and the NPBES permit was not granted?  Ms. Eng stated that they could not operate. Director Blumenfeld stated that if you don’t issue a permit for water, then it would close, we have no peakers, and what would happen?  . 

 

Director Blumenfeld stated that the goal of the Department is to improve the environment through all aspects to promote renewable and efficient energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It was suggested that the Commission could write a letter to the SFPUC because of all the new information that was received today, and that the SFERP is an old technology that the permit was granted before transbay cable was put in place and before we knew how much solar power could be put in the City. The Department’s duty is to explain our position and ask questions.  The Precautionary Principle asks for early public participation and asks for an alternative analysis.  This SFERP is one option on the table.  What are the other options that are being seriously reviewed and how can we ensure that it is being reviewed adequately?  What amount of solar power or energy efficiency would close down the power plant?  So the question is, how can we save the City money, close the Potrero Power Plant and satisfy the needs and legitimate health concerns of the public.

   

5.      Department of the Environment School Education Program Update (Informational Report and Discussion).

Staff: Tamar Hurwitz, Environmental Education Manager  

 

Ms. Tamar Hurwitz introduced Ms. Rachel Pomerantz, Environmental Education Coordinator and Eva Wong, Environmental Associate and presented an overview of the Department’s school education program intended to promote environmental awareness in San Francisco’s youngest citizens. Ms. Hurwitz reported that the School Education Program offers K-12 Environmental Programs taught to 15,000 students in public and private schools.  Programs include:

 

(1)   Food to Flowers, an innovative lunchroom composting program that provides teaching methods, assemblies, free materials, Phoebe the Phoenix mascot, behavior modification, lesson plans, and student fact sheets.  Food to Flowers is in 90 public and private schools and is funded by the Altamont Education Fund. The average diversion rate is 55%;

 

(2)   Water pollution prevention and conservation lessons.  Sixty classroom presentations are provided each year with funding from SFPUC/BERM.

 

(3)   Promotion of school gardens—member of San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance;

 

(4)   Stop litter assemblies in partnership with the Department of Public Works,

 

(5)   The Department of the Environment are field trip sponsors, providing teacher workshops on environmental education and school awards ceremonies to honor excellence of environmental education in schools; and

 

(6)   Kids website and resource library on the Department of the Environment school education website.

 

6.      Bayview Farmers Market Update (Informational Report and Discussion).

Staff:  Sraddha Mehta, Environmental Justice Coordinator

 

Ms. Mehta reported that the market is in its third year of operation and is located at 3rd Street and Oakdale Avenue in the Bayview District across the street from the Bayview Opera House in the Mendel Plaza that is a nicely renovated plaza with benches and trees.  The market opened on May 16, will run until October 31, and is open on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  This year the market features produce from six different farms, two of which are located in San Francisco, Alemany Farms and Girls 2000 Double Rock Gardens.  The two agencies are physically present at the market selling produce they grew at their own farms in San Francisco.  Department staff, volunteers, and Girls 2000 staff represent the other four farms.  Produce is picked up from the farmers at Civic Center Farmers Market and sold on their behalf.  The market averages about 100 customers a week, mostly regulars that attend weekly. 

 

Ms. Mehta explained that outreach is being done by City agencies, people in the neighborhood and representatives from the church, business, and public housing sectors.  Coupons have been distributed as an incentive through flyers.  The San Francisco Chronicle featured the farmers market in their July 10 cover story regarding the United States farm bill).  It was stated that Literacy for Environmental Justice has held cooking demonstrations using produce from the market.  On October 3, Mr. Bryant Terry, chef, food justice activist, and co-author of the book, Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen did a cooking demonstration and gave out recipe cards.  There was entertainment for kids and live music and a few hundred people had attended that day.  Schools attend the farmers market through field trips and there are activities planned for children. 

 

Ms. Mehta reported that funding to run the market is from a $280,000 USDA grant that is effective for three years. This is the first year of the grant, so there is still two more years of USDA funding to continue the market.  Also, approximately $1000 was received from an anonymous donor to fund cooking demonstrations and help with some of the local gardening work that is going on in Bayview and Alemany.  The market receives support from interns and student volunteers that help set up the market weekly. Asian Neighborhood Design provided entertainment for October.  The market has received a lot of promotional items from the state that includes nutritional education materials, t-shirts, colanders, etc.  Ms. Mehta reported on a problem with the lunch coolers that contained lead and were recalled. There is an effort underway to try to get those back with some success.  A meeting will be held with Girls 2000 and stakeholders at the end of the month to discuss the future of the market and plan for next year. 

  

Item 8 was heard before Item 7.

 

7.      Compostable Bag Outreach Report (Informational Report and Discussion).

Staff:  Jack Macy, Commercial Recycling Coordinator

 

Mr. Macy reported that the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance passed in April 2007 would be effective on November 20, 2007 for 56 of the largest grocery stores in San Francisco and on May 20, 2008 for pharmacy chains of five stores or more.  It was explained that at the checkout point of sale, stores can provide only a reusable bag that has to meet certain specifications, a certified compostable bag, or a recyclable paper bag that has to meet a higher recycled content that is 40% post consumer and 100% recyclable content.  Mr. Macy stated that this effort has received a lot of press, has been coordinated with the California Grocer’s Association, and a formal letter reminding stores of the ordinance, its requirements, and effective dates went out today.  It was reported that Department staff has been in touch with many of the stores and bag vendors, and before this ordinance was passed, typical paper bags were 20 or 30% post consumer.  Durabag has produced a higher standard bag that has been in use at a number of the stores, and a number of stores have stopped using plastic bags. Mr. Macy reported on progress made by grocery stores on their bag use and their plans in response to the ordinance.  It was stated that some stores are holding back because of the higher prices for compostable bags, but prices may come down with a larger scale of production.  A number of the stores targeted by the ordinance have already stopped providing plastic bags at checkout and are meeting all the ordinance requirements. 

 

8.      Department of the Environment’s Financial Report through September 30, 2007 (Informational Report and Discussion). (Explanatory Document:  Department First Quarter Budget Summary by Program FY 2007-08).

Staff: Joseph Salem, Budget & Finance Support

 

Mr. Salem stated that the Department’s first quarter budget summary of expenditures is attached to the packet (see explanatory document above).  The budget is shown by program area and by fund.  It was reported that the Department is doing great in terms of spending as the percent of the budget remaining versus the percent of the year remaining is on track. There are only two areas that more of a percentage of our budget remaining was spent than is remaining in the year, and those two areas are related to a move that caused front-loaded expenses. This figure will eventually average out and align with the percentage of the year left.  Mr. Salem stated that encumbered funds are not included in what is actually spent because these funds can be modified, cancelled, or expended and would not be considered an expenditure until the actual item has been received or the service has been provided.

 

Commission Secretary Monica Fish reported on Ms. Wuerfel’s public comments (1) requesting that the report provide subtotals for each of the budget columns within each division, and then provide a grand total for the year’s budget, actuals, and encumbrances; and (2) determine the remaining balance as a combination of the “actual” and the “encumbrance” columns so that when comparing the amount of money left with the amount of fiscal year remaining, one should be able to clearly see the true amount of available funds yet to be disbursed. 

9.      Information:  New Business/Future Agenda Items (Discussion).  There was no new business or future agenda items discussed at this time.

 

10.  Public Comments:  Members of the public may address the Committee on matters that are within the Committee’s jurisdiction and are not on today’s agenda.  There was no public comment at this time.

 

11.  Adjournment.  The Operations Committee meeting adjourned at 5:20 p.m.

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709; FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

The next Operations Committee Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.

 

** Copies of explanatory documents are available at (1) the Commission’s office, 11 Grove Street, San Francisco, California between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., (2) on the Commission’s website https://sites.google.com/a/sfenvironment.org/commission/operations-committee as attachments to the meeting agenda or minutes; (3) upon request to the Commission Secretary, at telephone number 415-355-3709, or via e-mail at Monica.Fish@sfgov.org.

 

Monica Fish, Commission Secretary

TEL:  (415) 355-3709

FAX: (415) 554-6393

 

Approved:  April 16, 2008

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