Mayor Lee distorts reality in defending CleanPowerSF obstruction by his appointees

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Mayor Ed Lee and his appointees are essentially claiming the authority to override board decisions made on a veto-proof 8-3 vote
Tim Daw

Mayor Ed Lee yesterday answered a series of five questions from the Board of Supervisors about CleanPowerSF, the renewable energy program it approved last year on a veto-proof 8-3 vote, but which three of Lee’s appointees on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are now blocking.

Lee reaffirmed his opposition to the program and support for the three commissioners who are refusing to approve a maximum rate for the program, while making a series of statements that were misleading, contradictory, and, according to Sup. John Avalos, some outright falsehoods.

CleanPowerSF would group tens of thousands of city residents into a renewable energy buying pool, a system called Community Choice Aggregation authorized by state legislation, which would compete against Pacific Gas & Electric’s illegal local monopoly. Initally, the energy would be purchased under a contract with Shell Energy, but the main goal of the program is to build city-owned renewable energy facilities by issuing revenue bonds supported by the program’s ratepayers.

Yet the program Lee described has little resemblance to CleanPowerSF -- and his statements of support for the concept belie his longstanding opposition to the program and support for PG&E, whose union is leading the campaign to kill CleanPowerSF.

“I know that many members of the Board of Supervisors are upset,” Lee began in his first answer to similar questions posed by Sups. Eric Mar, David Chiu, London Breed, David Campos, and John Avalos, who all represent the odd-numbered districts whose turn it was to submit questions to the mayor for this month’s appearance.

Lee then explained that one of the duties of  the SFPUC is to protect ratepayers, which he called “the overriding concern they have when faced with any issue,” adding that, “The commission ultimately decided that the rate wasn’t a fair rate.”

Ironically, the top rate that the commission is being asked to approve in order to finally launch CleanPowerSF was just 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, only slightly more than current PG&E rates and a substantial reduction from the rate that was discussed last year when supervisors approved the program.

PG&E, Lee, and other critics of the program had attacked its high cost, so SFPUC staffers tweaked the program to allow the initial use of Renewable Energy Credits, which support the creation of renewable energy projects, rather than being purely juice directly from solar, wind, and other renewable sources, which is more expensive.

So Lee criticized that change as a departure from what the board approved last year, telling the supervisors that the program should be at least “95 percent renewable on day one,” saying that, “This is what a green power program should look like.”

Yet when it did look like that, Lee opposed it, something he didn’t mention yesterday. And yet he still made the argument that the SFPUC was simply exercising its fiduciary responsibility in blocking a program that has gotten cheaper than when the board approved it.

“The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission did its job in protecting ratepayers,” Lee said. “I agree with the majority of the PUC.”

So, on one hand, Lee said that CleanPowerSF has “gotten progressively more expensive as time goes on,” citing statements made years ago about the goal of trying to meet-or-beat PG&E’s rates, which have been subsidized by taxpayers over the years.

And when the program then got close to matching those rates, he criticized the use of RECs to get there, saying the climate change benefits “need to be real and tangible and not based on vague promises.”

Yet even city-commissioned studies have shown that San Francisco won’t meet its own greenhouse gas reduction goals without substantially changing the energy portfolio of city residents, and CleanPowerSF is the only plan on the table to get there, except for PG&E’s vague promises to offer more renewable energy in the future.

While Lee touted city efforts to improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and the recent launch of a regional bike share program -- neither of which will come close to meeting city climate change goals -- even he acknowledged the “need to expand our in-city renewable energy generation,” citing the $4 million SolarSF as an example.

But Lee never made reference to CleanPowerSF’s plan to build up to $1 billion in renewable energy projects whose impacts would be far more impactful. Instead, he said the program “creates no local jobs,” which wouldn’t be true during the buildout phase.

While praising PG&E, Lee also glossed over the fact that a majority of supervisors still support CleanPowerSF, and that the SFPUC vote was supposed to be on the rate and not these ancillary issues, raising fundamental democratic issues when three mayoral appointees can override the decision of elected supervisors who represent all city residents.

“When a final project is so vastly different than the original intent, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has to intervene,” Lee said.

Avalos called many of Lee’s statements “lies,” so I followed Mayor Lee back to his office after the hearing and we had the following conversation as several reporters from other media outlets listened in:   

SFBG: Supervisor Avalos just said that you’ve made a number of statements that are not factually accurate, and certainly misleading, including saying that the program has changed substantially. Given that you opposed the program initially, and you seem to make statements that criticize those changes, and clearly the majority still supports it, how can you make the argument that the PUC is acting against it because the program has changed?

Mayor Lee: Well, you know, I know that elements of this are somewhat complicated cause you have to actually read a lot of volumes of materials to understand the choice aggregation program, cause it has those three aspects and I would….

SFBG: As guidelines, not as rates….

Mayor Lee: I would point to those numbers that were discussed at the board and presented to the [SF] Public Utilities Commission, because that’s what I’m quoting from. I’m taking it, not from even verbiage, I’m taking it exactly from facts that were presented at the commission at the Board of Supervisors and I specifically lifted quotes from the board about their comments about local jobs and all the other things, so, I don’t think I’m inaccurate at all. I think I’m actually quite on point.

SFBG: But the rates have come down from when they approved it and you made it sound like the rates have gone up.

Mayor Lee: The rates were up and they came down in trade off with less green.

SFBG: Right…

Mayor Lee: That’s about the point I was trying to make is that we wanted these other goals to happen and they couldn’t happen cause people were trading off things in order to set the rates and that was going to become a bigger and bigger gap as to what the original goals were. That’s the way…

SFBG: But the board clearly wants this program. Why, as a matter of policy, as a matter of city procedure, why isn’t the elected body the one to make this decision, instead of your appointees?

Mayor Lee: Well, I think that’s the whole reason why they presented it to the Public Utilities Commission. They’re charter mandated to set these rates. It’s not just an automatic acceptance of what the board says. They also independently review what the board has said. And in their independent review, they said they had gone well beyond what they stated their goals were and so they couldn’t set the rates and still honor all the goals that the board was suggesting.

SFBG: But those rates are less than what the Board has approved. How can they be exercising fiscal oversight… I mean, it doesn’t make any sense.

Mayor Lee: I think we have a big disagreement there. They’re mandated by the charter to set those rates responsibly, not just to follow what the board has stated and so, in their independent review, they went and reviewed all the goals that the board has said and said ‘This is not the program that they have stated should be fulfilled.’

SFBG: Even though the majority of the Board of Supervisors disagree with that statement that you just made?

Mayor Lee: Well, you know, then again, are we not respecting peoples’ right to disagree over what is being done here?

SFBG: But your argument that the program changed from what they approved, a  majority is saying ‘that’s not true,’ that you’re misrepresenting that.

Mayor Lee: No, I don’t think that I’m misrepresenting that. I disagree with that.

SFBG: A majority of the Board of Supervisors who approved it says you are.

Mayor: Well, I disagree with that assessment.

 

 

 

Comments

People are royally pissed at Obama and the top Democrats for trying to launch a war on Syria. As a result of that, the Keystone Pipeline, and the continued devastated economy, New York City voters are about to elect their first progressive mayor in 50 years.

It's a good bet that San Francisco will head in the same direction.

Another compelling indication that public opinion is shifting leftward is that a former head of Homeland Security just got appointed to run the UC system.

That move is likely an attempt to control an imminent major statewide student uprising similar to that of the 60s.

And then there's this business of a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors calling Ed Lee to the carpet for his cynical, corporate bought interference with the launch of the vital CleanPowerSF program...

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

Waiting for one's opponents to collapse due to exhaustion with no real plans on how to organize against a well organized corporate onslaught is not going to energize anyone.

The only way that San Franciscans get what we want is to push them aside at the ballot box and take what we want.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

And I wasn't proposing otherwise. We will need an organized movement to win.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

Many of San Francisco's organizers, the ones who work here, are standing in the way of an organized movement.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

many reasons, not least of course their lack of numbers and support.

You cannot fit a quart into a pint pot.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

not just in san francisco

we need to get the non-droids engaged

Posted by racer x on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

left or right of mainstream opinion then they can never gain traction with the silent majority.

There are only two responses to that. Either compromise and gain support, which is what politicians do. Or stay "pure" but accept that you may never gain influence.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

have never read margaret mead

it is nearly always a small group of dedicated organizers that makes change

to put it bluntly, most people are sheep

the path of civilization is moved by whatever small group does the best job of getting the sheep to move in their direction

the last half century has been a dismal joke because the small group attracting the sheep has been a bunch of idiot finance capitalists

time for a shake up...

Posted by racer x on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

bunch of unwashed liberals sitting around whining.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

gluttons of wealth

there's a difference

and the arc of human progress shows that the more frequent gains of the rich are overwhelmed by the more lasting gains of egalitarians

Posted by racer x on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

All you have to do is sit there and do nothing, and eventually you be become successful.

Perfect for you.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 4:36 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:15 am

Arguing in the 'comment' section is like running in the Special Olympics.

Even if you win, you're still retarded.

Posted by the 'real' Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 6:10 am
Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 6:38 am

No one changes their mind about a subject just becasuse someone is a better debater, just as neither social nor economic change happen because the "right" politician is elected. Society is much more complex, but good luck trying to tell the obsessive commenters and political junkies that their efforts and words fall on deaf ears.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 6:50 am

But some things get done and others do not, so there is a game to be played, and some folks are better at playing it than others.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 7:19 am

And for the most part has stuck to real back and forth about issues, without much personal attack at all. I'm certain it has helped educate others. And I have spoken personally to Board Supervisors who have told me they read and consider the arguments put forward in these blogs.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Interesting. And a good incentive for people of all opinions to post here.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:36 am

That's the problem with moderates. We love contradicting ourselves.

Posted by Matlock on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 9:12 am

Ed Lee is a fascist little capitalist sock puppet that should be removed from office B Y A N Y M E A N S

the man is sowing the seeds of neo fascism, allowing a criminogenic environment to become the hegemonic "culture" of the government of CCSF.

He will not be elected nor will he serve a 2nd term as Mayor of CCSF.

Posted by Guestforrevolutionaryaction on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:39 am

is only a white name when used as a christian name.

Don't bank on him not being re-elected - his approval rating is around 65% - very high for a mayor at this point in office.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 11:51 am

but you are unfortunately, probably correct, about Lee's prospects for regaining the office of mayor

Posted by racer x on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

people like Rose Pak and Willie Brown, neither of whom are white.

Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

Otherwise, I never would have learned that Robert E. Lee wasn't white.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

but I agree it's hard to tell here sometimes.

Posted by anon on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:27 pm

from the earlier statement: "The "Lee" part gives that away as it is only a white name when used as a christian name."

I didn't know that before. Lesson learned. Maybe if the confederate army had be lead by a white guy instead of that Chinaman Robert E. Lee, they would have won the Civil War.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 7:51 pm

Clue: It's not the last name.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 7:19 am

that anyone with the last name of Lee isn't white, only people with the first name of Lee.

See if you can follow along.

Lee Ving: white

Robert E. Lee: not white.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 7:33 am

What was said was that "Lee" as a surname is a clue that someone might not be white. As a first name, less so. But obviously anyone can be named anything, and renaming thru marriage confuses things further.

Jeez.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 7:58 am

"Ed Lee is Asian, not white. The "Lee" part gives that away as it
is only a white name when used as a christian name."

Do trolls have a mutual defense pact to deflect or deny their stupidity?

Jeez.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:20 am

Which you would know if you ever left your white ghetto.

Posted by anon on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:36 am

Do you know the definition of the word "only"?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 8:49 am

about the Asian community, then that is even worse.

Shame on you.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 9:03 am

family Chinese (and Korean) family name, of course

What I learned yesterday is that it is only a white name if it is a first name.

By the way, my real name is Lee Lee and I am neither White nor Asian.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 9:35 am

my work here is done.

Since the last word seems really, really important to you, I predict with 100% certainty that you will reply to this with some hapless denial rather than just admit that you made a mistake.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 11:40 am

Some commenter (maybe you) claimed that Lee is only a white name if it is a first name. By his (your?) reasoning, no white person could have the last name of Lee.

That is all. You are correct that I would respond to clarify. But either you cannot read or you are stupid.

Posted by Lee Lee on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

insecure that you just had to have the last word - a sure sign that you know you were wrong.

And yes, he's right, Lee is common as an Asian last name and as a Caucasan first name. Doesn't everyone know that?

Posted by anon on Sep. 13, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

this is simply a troll barrier

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread have diminished the conversation into petty, mean spirited, irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by troll barrier on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 8:16 am
Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 8:39 am

unprincipled, trollish.

What else?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 11:21 am

When you are losing, it's generally better not to keep drawing attention to it, but rather let it slide.

Posted by anon on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 11:30 am
Posted by Guest on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

You meant that as a joke, right?

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 15, 2013 @ 5:35 am

Making an Asian look like an Aryan is a deft trick. I suspect you're going to use that every time from now on huh?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

There is no plan for $1B of Solar infrastructure. That is a lie brought by Avalos, Camos and Erlc Brooks. They would like to have one, but they don't as of now. Only a deal to guarantee Dutch Shell Oil Co millions of taxpayer dollars if too many people opt out of the rate increase they negotiated.

Posted by Richmondman on Sep. 15, 2013 @ 5:39 am
Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 15, 2013 @ 8:30 am

Per your link: Issues to be resolved - no plan for local build-out.
I also like that CleanPowerSF only expects 20% opt-out. Good luck with that.

Posted by Richmondmam on Sep. 15, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

The Local Power presentation said that -SFPUC- doesn't have a plan, not that there is no plan. The Local Power plan is on the table, the Environment Commission and its department have responded favorably to that plan and the Board of Supervisors can easily vote to move it forward.

What the report is pointing out, is that the SFPUC has failed to implement the very plan that they themselves asked be drafted.

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