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Monday, September 17, 2012

Coercion Allegations in Battle Over Shell Public Power Contract

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Maybe it's not your choice...
  • Maybe it's not your choice...

Multiple accusers claiming to be representatives of Public Utilities Commission-funded nonprofits have contacted Mayor Ed Lee's office, alleging they were threatened by PUC officials to not publicly question the proposed "clean power" deal with Shell -- at risk of losing their funding.

Mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey confirmed the calls were received, noting "We're going to reach out to the PUC and see what's going on."

These purported threats did not occur behind closed doors. An observer at last week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting at City Hall claims to have overheard a PUC official dissuading nonprofit leaders from weighing in on the "CleanPowerSF" program, with references made to "nonprofits' PUC funding." This, SF Weekly is told, occurred in and around Board chambers.  

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the $19.5 million Shell contract during tomorrow's meeting.

The allegations came as news to PUC Director Ed Harrington, who is serving out his last week on the job. Regarding the purported public threats made by his underlings, he said "That's not how we do business. That would be surprising to me." He said no one from the mayor's office has contacted him yet, though "I don't know if they talked to my staff."

Tuesday's board vote will be the culmination of a yearslong drive for "Community Choice Aggregation," which would drain PG&E's monopoly over San Francisco's energy market. While freeing the city from PG&E's clutches has become an obsession in some political circles, the contract before the supes tomorrow is rife with questionable details. First and foremost -- it's with Shell, one of the world's foremost environmental villains.

An analysis by the City Controller's Office last month determined the deal would require a 77 percent spike in San Franciscans' electricity costs just to break even, could leave the city holding the bag for tens of millions of dollars, and could drain jobs from San Francisco. What's more, as noted in the proposed contract, "No new facilities are required to be constructed in order for Shell Energy to meet its supply obligation under this Agreement." (see page 37). That means the source of the so-called "green" energy might not be as green as casual observers would think.

Tomorrow's vote was already shaping up to be an intriguing one. And now it's even more so.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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