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Potrero Hill Power Plant To Close Amid Environmental Concerns

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - San Francisco's last fossil fuel-burning power plant will close on Jan. 1, state energy regulators and local officials announced Tuesday.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and officials from the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state's electrical grid, made the announcement at a 10 a.m. news conference at the plant, located at 1201 Illinois St.

KCBS' Tim Ryan Reports:

"This is the last vestige of our industrial past, our polluting past," Newsom said. He thanked city and state officials and community groups who took part in extensive and, at times, contentious negotiations over the closure in recent years.

City officials have called the Potrero Hill power plant, owned by GenOn Energy, formerly Mirant Corp., one of the dirtiest in the state.

Residents in the southeastern part of the city blamed the pollution for higher rates of respiratory disease, cancer and other health problems.

Community leaders and elected officials including Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, in whose district the plant sits, have been crusading for years to shut it down.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera had threatened lawsuits to try to force Mirant to close the plant.

The city was able to shut down a similar plant in nearby Hunters Point in 2006.

Maxwell, who is leaving the Board of Supervisors in January after two terms in office, recalled Tuesday how she began working on closing both power plants when she was first elected.

"And now the plants are leaving with me," she said.

"This is a great day for San Francisco," Maxwell said. "It's certainly great for Potrero, but for San Francisco it's really putting us on the road to a clean energy future."

Cal-ISO officials said in January that the new Trans Bay Cable, an underwater 400-megawatt electrical transmission cable from the East Bay, and recent upgrades to transmission cables from the Peninsula, will ensure that the local grid has enough power without the Potrero plant.

The cable came online last month, Trans Bay Cable CFO Sean O'Reilly said Thursday.

The agreement announced Thursday will release the plant from its contract obligations with Cal-ISO and allow it to close. There is a two-month period until Feb. 28 in which the plant could run only "in an extreme emergency."

"This is a historic day," Cal-ISO President and CEO Yakout Mansour said. "The plant is historic, and shutting the plant is historic."

Yakout thanked residents of the area.

"You were very patient over the last 12 months," he said.

John Chillemi, president of GenOn West, said he and his colleagues had mixed emotions. While the plant's closure furthers goals for a healthier environment for the city, it will cost 30 jobs, he said.

As for the site's future, plans are still uncertain.

"We think there is a lot of value in this site, for us and the community," Chillemi said.

Newsom, who will leave the mayor's office to become the state's lieutenant governor in January, said he envisions that the area could become part of the city's "innovation corridor" of Internet technology, biotech, life science and green technology businesses between Mission Bay and Hunters Point.

"The new economy," he said.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report.)

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