Shells Dirty Energy plan thwarted in San Francisco

Activists in the Shell Shock campaign attend the SF Public Utilities Commission meeting on Aug. 13.

CleanPowerSF, San Francisco’s plan to contract with Shell Energy for the delivery of electricity to city residents, lost traction on Aug. 13 when the city’s Public Utilities Commission voted 3-2 against setting rates for the program–effectively putting it on hold.

The program was approved last fall by the Board of Supervisors, who authorized a five-year, $19.5 million contract with Shell. But IBEW Local 1245 members and other participants in the “Shell Shock” campaign showed up at the SFPUC meeting on Tuesday to object to the plan.

Local 1245 Business Representative Hunter Stern is interviewed by members of the media at the SF Public Utilities Commission meeting on Aug. 13.
Local 1245 Business Representative Hunter Stern is interviewed by members of the media at the SF Public Utilities Commission meeting on Aug. 13.

 

In a letter to the SFPUC, Local 1245 Business Representative Hunter Stern said the Shell proposal “would violate City policy, City law and common sense.”

The power supplied by Shell, Stern told the commissioners, would be green “in name only” because the power would in fact come from available fossil fuel sources on the grid. CleanPowerSF would in fact, he said, almost certainly increase greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), in violation of City policy.

Further, Stern said, “there is a profound, knowable and negative environmental consequence to the Shell contract,” and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires the filing of Environmental Impact Report–something the City and County of San Francisco have not done.

“The residents of San Francisco do not want to be forced to become customers of Shell Oil,” said Stern, noting that Shell has been called one of “the dirtiest, most regressive corporations in the world.” The City and County of San Francisco has been moving to divest pension holdings in Royal Dutch Shell Oil stock and the stock of other industries that increase GHGs, Stern noted.

CleanPowerSF proposes to let Shell use Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to “greenwash” the electricity it would provide to San Francisco. The advocacy group Climate Clean described RECs this way:

“While RECs may offer the opportunity to own the property rights of a given amount of green energy attributes, such rights are — from the perspective of reducing emissions — worthless. Accordingly, claiming that such purchases offset carbon emissions is at best an empty boast based on ignorance, at worst a calculated and concerted greenwash effort.”

“Between 75% and 85% of the power under this proposed contract will come from RECs,” said Stern, “which means that Shell will buy pieces of paper that evidence ‘renewable attributes’ but deliver brown power from the local grid.”

Stern also challenged Shell’s record on workers’ safety and human rights, noting that a review of 2007 data found that “Shell had the highest mortality rate of any large western oil company in the United States.” Shell is also accused of playing a role in the murder of Nigerian environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Over 12,700 San Franciscans have joined the “Shell Shock” coalition, and those voices appear to have found a receptive ear at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission–at least for now.

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