Activists Protest PG&E’s Broken Promises in Hunters Point

by Rita Mandelenis on April 12, 2006

Many braved the rain yesterday to protest contradicting PG&E statements to set closure dates of a power plant in Hunters Point. Five people, amongst about 30, lined up along Evans Street holding homemade dolls in their arms to represent the children that PG&E has killed. They also wore masks on their face to show what residents need to protect themselves from the polluted air.

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice organized the protest because in September PG&E officials declared to the California Independent System Operator that the plant would be shut down by April. Now that this date has passed, Hunters Point residents are fed up and are willing to close down the plant themselves since the government is not taking action. The life expectancy of this plant was 25 years, but the plant has been in operation for 77 years. PG&E Vice President told an environmental representative that they will begin the closure process “eight days after the rain stops.”

Marie Harrison, of Greenaction and a Hunters Point resident, knows first-hand the irreversible damage PG&E causes. Harrison has raised three children and six grandchildren in the neighborhood; at one point she was advised by a doctor to move away from Hunters Point for the sake of her son’s asthma.

“It’s disheartening that 40 years ago they [PG&E] knew that they were slowly killing the people here,” said Harrison.

She also knows of two childhood deaths, just blocks away from the plant, due to asthma attacks. When the asthma goes undiagnosed, these attacks without the proper care are deadly.

“We aren’t important here,” explained Harrison, referring to the disproportionate number of African Americans in Hunters Point. “There are a lot of parties responsible like the city Planning Department who is supposed to make San Francisco a healthy place.”

The power plant is located across the street from low-income housing at Evans and Middlepoint Streets. In the housing complex asthma is common among children, and cancer among middle-aged adults, and nosebleeds are prone to happen at any given time. As Harrison pointed out, that community is not important to many others, especially the media.

During the rally the San Francisco Bay Guardian and San Francisco Bayview newspaper’s Willie Ratcliff were praised for their efforts in reporting on this issue. Channel 2 news was briefly on sight, but nobody from the San Francisco Chronicle or Examiner were present to cover this issue.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi was the only supervisor present—and he represents District 5, not 10. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell was accused by a few of aiding in the PG&E games and postponements. She was also in support of a bill where that land can now be used for residential use, despite the toxic chemicals. “Sophie where are you??” read one sign.

Supervisor Mirkarimi said that PG&E does not deserve the community’s trust or respect.

“They’re not going to change,” said Mirkarimi who has been involved with this issue since he was first elected in 2004. “Everyday they should pay the community they have paralyzed.”

Mary Bull, one activist holding the doll for passersby to see, said that we need to change the law in order to become energy self-reliant. She urges San Franciscans to get out and vote, and contact their district supervisors for a plan called the Community Choice Aggregation. In this plan the city will use renewable energy and will force PG&E to use power generated from Hetch Hetchy and stop polluting the environment.

“PG&E produces crappy air, dirty water knowingly,” said Bull. “They’re not going to close this plant until they’re nailed to the wall.”

“No environmental racism/No racist development” read a sign by the Gray Panthers.

Mission resident Fran Taylor came out for the cause simply because it makes her so “furious.”

“This is outrageous that this plant is still open,” Taylor said. They wouldn’t do this do any other community; it will all change once the yuppies move over here.”

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