SF Will Shutter Potrero

Clean air for San Francisco could mean dirty air for else where.

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Dec 21, 2010  |  Updated 2:57 PM PDT
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SF Will Shutter Potrero

Robert Burns

Smoke will finally cease at the dirty, aging Mirant plant on San Francisco's waterfront which has long poisoned nearby neighborhoods.

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Take a deep breath -- no, wait, not yet! Wait until New Year's Day.

One of the most polluting power plants in the state will shut down for good in just ten days. 

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and people from the California Independent System Operator made that announcement at the Potrero Hill plant Tuesday morning. 

"Today is a historic day for so many who have worked for years to close this power plant," said Newsom. "This is a monumental step towards cleaner air, environmental justice and our future of renewable energy and healthier communities."

The plant will remain on-line in case of emergency for another two months. After that, the Potrero Hill plant nightmare will finally be over.

Residents of the Bayview and Hunter's Point have long suffered from respiratory illnesses and cancer and many suspect the toxic fossil fuels burned at the plant as a contributing factor.

It took this long to close the plant because the city needed to have backup power in case of emergencies. At first, the city wanted to build a new plant that produced slightly fewer emissions. But the Department of the Environment balked, saying that the city needed to explore cleaner, less polluting alternatives.

Finally, the city and state arranged to bring in power from other municipalities. That will allow San Francisco to consume electricity without producing waste in its own backyard. There will still be pollution generated somewhere, but since it's far away, it'll be much easier for city residents to pretend that their electricity is clean.

In other words, it's a happy ending for San Francisco, but only the beginning of trouble for someone else.

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