Regional Water Quality Board Approves Modified Permit to Hasten End to Mirant’s Polluting Cooling System City Officials & Community Leaders Call Decision Requiring End to Destructive Cooling Process by 2008 as “Major Step in the Right Direction”
OAKLAND, Calif. (May 10, 2006) — The California Regional Water Quality Control Board for the San Francisco Bay Region today voted 6 – 1 to significantly modify a staff-recommended wastewater discharge permit that would have allowed Mirant Corp.’s Potrero Power Plant Unit 3 to continue operating in violation of minimum environmental standards until June 30, 2011. The modified permit approved by the regional board late this afternoon will instead lapse on Dec. 31, 2008, with the board adding language of its intent to deny further permits for the company’s once-through cooling system unless the company can convincingly demonstrate the absence of adverse impacts to the San Francisco Bay. City officials agree that such a demonstration is extremely unlikely given the body of evidence to the contrary.
Occurring several hours after the anticipated time for the item to be considered, the vote came after a concerted effort by City officials and community members to speak against the permit. City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell and S.F. Public Utilities Commission General Manager Susan Leal urged the regulatory board to adopt an alternative, community-backed permit that would have required Mirant’s plant to come into compliance with environmental standards over time, or to agree to close down the plant when its electricity generation was no longer required for reliability. Though the regional board ultimately pursued a middle course, City leaders acknowledge this as a significant interim victory in a longer-term effort.
“We are gratified that the board clearly recognized what’s at stake here in terms of environmental protection,” said Herrera. “Though we didn’t achieve all the aims of the community-backed permit we advocated, this nonetheless represents the death knell for Mirant’s polluting cooling system, and it is an important step toward closing the plant when it’s no longer needed.”
“The regional board’s decision today is a step in the right direction towards protecting San Francisco Bay and the community,” said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. “We’ll continue to keep the pressure on Mirant to ensure that they meet every single term of new permit’s provisions or we will take further action to shut them down.”
“The board members today demonstrated their willingness to heed good science and the community when it comes to protecting the Bay,” said SFPUC General Manager Susan Leal. “Instead of rubber-stamping the staff recommendation, the Board strengthened the permit, requiring Mirant to end this destructive cooling process unless they can conclusively demonstrate that super-heated Bay discharges are not harmful to the environment.”
“The neighborhoods impacted by this power plant have worked very hard to make sure it abides by environmental standards, and I’m glad that the board acknowledged the community’s concerns,” said Supervisor Sophie Maxwell. “I will continue to fight to close this polluting plant alongside community organizations and City officials until Mirant stops polluting San Francisco Bay.”
Mirant has been operating its Potrero power plant with the same basic permit requirements since 1994, despite changes to wastewater discharge standards and advances in plant technology that would enable the company to mitigate the environmental damage caused by the plant’s operation.