Besides that, how'd you like the story?: Jeremy Mullman's July 4 piece "Gray Skies," about the Potrero power plant project, presents a distorted and incomplete picture of the state's efforts to bring renewable power online and about the Energy Commission's power plant siting process.
First, Mr. Mullman is flat-out wrong that the state is ignoring renewable energy. The California Energy Commission has always supported renewable energy. By the end of 2003, 1,000 megawatts generated by 72 new renewable power plants will be online. California gets more of its electricity from renewable sources than any other state by far.
Mullman also errs in saying no environmental justice analysis has taken place [for the Potrero power plant]. Section 4.9 of the preliminary staff assessment discusses the plant's impact on employment, housing, schools, minority or low-income populations, and other projects. The analysis recommends conditions of certification intended to mitigate environmental justice impacts on the surrounding community.
Mullman also wrongly charges that the commission appears to be well on the way to approving unnecessarily large plants, and that the state lacks an energy plan. There is a significant supply shortage throughout the region. There is nothing unnecessary about adding new generation to California's supply, regardless of the facility size.
As for the state's energy plan, power generation is just one-third of Gov. Davis' aggressive three-part strategy to resolve California's energy situation. The other key elements are market stabilization and energy conservation. We have made great strides in these areas. Wholesale power prices have dropped even as Californians conserved a remarkable 12 percent of electricity used in June, compared to the same period last year.
Mullman errs in saying that the commission has never rejected a power plant application. Had he checked, he would have found a number of power plant applications were withdrawn, predicated by the commission's indication of denial.
Mullman is also flat wrong in charging that the peaker plants under construction burn highly polluting oil. None of the 11 "peakers" approved by the commission burns oil. All are natural gas-fired facilities.
Preliminary staff assessments are just that, preliminary. They are not final reports. Public input is a key part of the licensing process. The issues raised at the workshops will become part of the final staff assessment. In the meantime, new environmental justice workshops are planned to better address the concerns that were raised.
California Energy Commission
Jeremy Mullman responds: Steve Larson raises one valid point: I did incorrectly describe peaker plants as oil-burning. The newer peakers do not burn oil, and I apologize for the error.
Larson says I am "flat-out wrong" in saying that the state is largely ignoring renewable energy. Don't take my word for it: The San Diego Union-Tribune reported July 4 that only four of the state's 38 recently signed long-term power contracts involve green energy.
Larson says an environmental justice analysis was done for the Potrero plant, pointing to a section of the preliminary staff assessment of the project dealing with socioeconomics. That section was co-written by the Energy Commission employee, Amanda Stennick, who told a public hearing that the commission's plant-building process was "fractured" and that, rather than evaluate whether there were disproportionate impacts on minority communities in southeast San Francisco, she had merely developed a "screening tool" to evaluate whether southeast San Francisco constituted an "environmental justice population." Stennick also said the commission "hasn't figured out what to do about environmental justice yet."
Medium hot under the collar: It's to be expected that SF Weekly would dislike an article that has some positive things to say about the San Francisco Chronicle. But it's disappointing that Jeremy Mullman, in his eagerness to attack my Columbia Journalism Review piece ("How Legends Are Born," Dog Bites, July 18), would distort what I wrote. He ignores the evidence I gave for my conclusion that the Chronicle has improved over the past six months, such as its enterprising energy coverage, a penetrating series on Mayor Brown, a critique of United Airlines.
Nor does Mullman take note of my article's balancing criticisms of the Chronicle for such things as serious oversights in local coverage, inadequate business coverage, and a weak Sunday magazine. To do so would have made it impossible for him to make his tired assertion that I'd bought the company line.
Any serious journalistic observer can see that the Chronicle has become better, but when Mullman says he's "not sure how that translates into greatness" he's trying to demolish a claim that my article doesn't make. The paper has improved, not achieved greatness. Whether it will remains to be seen.
Finally, he concluded from our telephone conversation that my praise was "lukewarm." Actually, it's more like "medium hot," but those of us who grew up in the Midwest tend to speak carefully and laconically, without the overstatement that columnists like Mullman prefer.
Giving the Chron the bird: I liked your story on the "new" Chronicle. I thought I was the only one who noticed the emperor was naked. I actually tried the Chronicle for a month -- a free trial subscription -- but decided that my bird's sanitary needs weren't sufficient to justify all that wasted paper.
Daniel J. Leer
Tenants Union -- where the laughs never stop: Matt Smith's account of the Board of Supervisors' decision was wrong. The supervisors did not "[outlaw] a method of buying apartments known as tenancy in common" ("Now, the Emphatic Colonic News," July 18). They simply upheld an annual limit on the number of buildings that can be converted to tenancies in common.
And does Smith honestly believe the San Francisco Tenants Union would present serious legislation to the Board of Supervisors or the S.F. voters [Keep Out Obnoxious Landlords, which would ban owning more than two apartments] that includes the term "KOOL" (with a K!) in its title? Did it occur to Smith that [SFTU's Ted] Gullicksen may have found his inquiry so silly that he may not have given Smith a straight answer? In this "expanding quagmire of newly minted, screw-The-Man laws," the SFTU may be engaging in the most radical practice yet: maintaining our sense of humor. Come on in, Matt; the water's fine.
San Francisco Tenants Union
Political sitcom: Thanks to Matt Smith for his insightful column. I especially enjoy his exposure of the ironies of living in San Francisco today. Of particular comic value is his quote from Ted Gullicksen, to wit: "Well, banning landlords would certainly mean real home ownership for tenants, though it's probably undoable in increasingly-conservative and rich SF where profiteering off of housing means big bucks." Does Gullicksen's definition of profiteering include his income, which has come solely from housing "activism"?
Of equal entertainment value is the time Sophie Maxwell, Mark Leno, Jake McGoldrick, and Matt Gonzalez have devoted to "leave potheads alone" resolutions. Given the district attorney's user-friendly attitude toward dope dealers, I loved the comment, "the sanctuary measure would have no immediate, practical significance." Even though that quartet are on our payroll, "no immediate, practical significance" seems to be an apt description of their work.
Get back to work, folks, and do something of immediate, practical significance.