Unnatural Gas

"Environmentalists" make bad transit worse by insisting Muni buy alt-fuel buses

Muni has engineers working on what sorts of new buses might improve service while keeping the air clean, but they've proven no match, in PR and presentation expertise, for the oversight committee. For this expert advantage the committee can thank 20-year PG&E veteran Bill Zeller, and fellow PG&E employee James Larson.

"Our advocacy -- we have been providing technical support; I wouldn't call it advocacy -- but providing tech support to the other members of the committee," said Zeller when I caught up with him Monday. "We are experts on alt fuels."

Natural gas, of course, is the "G" in the name of Zeller's employer, which would potentially sell gas to Muni.

Zeller told me he has been working with the committee since it formed two years ago, providing research and expert hearing testimony. "Basically we've been reviewing Muni's pronouncements," Zeller said. "A lot of times they've brought up issues that have been raised before, and we know where there is information that refutes the claims they have made and supports the move to alternative fuels."

Zeller said he didn't know how many hours he and Larson have spent advising the committee during the past two years, though he would say he spent around five hours last week. "I don't know. I don't track that. To be honest, I haven't tracked that," said Zeller, but he did know that he wanted to be sure I used the proper terminology in describing his and Larson's work before the Board of Supervisors. "I want to be clear. We're not lobbying. We're providing technical support to this committee. We're not lobbyists."

As it happened, Zeller was speaking with me over his car phone. I asked him if he ever rode the bus. "I have a company vehicle because I cover a very large territory from California to the Oregon border," he said.

But does he ever take public transit?

"Once in a while, when I'm in the city, yeah," he said, adding that most of the time, "it's just not practical."

Certainly, Zeller's no chump.

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