America’s Cup Pollution?

The Sierra Club wants the regatta to be a “green” event.

Green hell” comes to yachting.

The Bay Citizen article is below.


Is SF Underestimating America’s Cup Air Pollution?
Air quality officials say city is undercounting the number of spectator boats the event will draw

Bay Area air pollution officials say something smells fishy about a decision by the city of San Francisco to sharply reduce its estimates of the numbers of spectator boats that will fill San Francisco Bay during America’s Cup racing events this year and next.

The city originally forecast that as many as 1,833 spectator boats would take to the bay during the America’s Cup World Series events in August and September this year. It also projected that 2,200 spectator boats would fill the bay during the higher-profile races in 2013.

But in a revised estimate released last month, the city now expects just 330 spectator boats in 2012 and 800 in 2013. It also reduced expectations for the number of cruise ships and race support boats in the bay.

City officials say the new, lower estimates are the result of improved forecasting methods. The local air district, however, says the new projections appear to understate the number of boats that will take to the bay, and also underestimate the amount of pollution they will create.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is scheduled Tuesday to consider appeals filed by environmental and neighborhood groups against the event’s environmental impact report, which was finalized last month. Jean Roggenkamp, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s pollution control officer, raised concerns about the lowered boat-count and pollution estimates in a five-page letter to the city’s planning department.

Air pollution during the America’s Cup has become one of the major environmental concerns related to the regatta, which will match international teams of sailors on high-tech 45-foot and 72-foot catamarans. In part, that is because the city expects an influx of cruise ships and other boats during the events.

In addition, the Port of San Francisco plans to disconnect a new shoreside power system, already in operation, that pumps electricity into cruise ships docked at Pier 27. The power system allows ship captains to switch off polluting diesel engines as their vessels idle.

“That whole Pier 27/29 complex is being used as the America’s Cup village,” said Brad Benson, special projects manager for the Port of San Francisco. “We’re not going to be using it for cruise berthing.”

To offset air pollution that will be created when the shoreside power supply is switched off, San Francisco plans to install a similar system for vessels docked along the southern waterfront at Pier 70, where supersize military and cruise ships idle as they are repaired.

But the air district, which provided a $1.9 million grant to help San Francisco install the shoreside power supply, says there are no guarantees in the city’s published environmental documents that the Pier 70 project will move forward.

The air district also questioned San Francisco’s claim that air pollution will be less severe than originally anticipated.

In her Dec. 15 letter to the city, Roggenkamp said the city failed to clearly state how it calculated the revised boat estimates, and she indicated that the city might need to come up with millions of dollars to help reduce air pollution caused by the regatta.

Michael Martin, San Francisco’s America’s Cup project director, said the revised estimates were based on a study of vessel traffic during Fleet Week, a popular annual military celebration best known for airplane flyovers.

“The consultants that prepared the first analysis stand by the second one,” Martin said. “We knew we needed to do some more analytical work to refine those numbers, so we did a more systematic boat count during this fall’s Fleet Week. We basically inflated that number by more than one-quarter to take a conservative estimate.”

The city published a memo in response to the air district’s letter, describing how it reached the new spectator boat prediction numbers and offering assurances that the Pier 70 project would move forward. Air district officials say the memo failed to adequately address their concerns.

“We think they can do more,” said David Vintze, an air district official.

Despite the air district’s concerns, it did not file an appeal against the environmental impact report. The Sierra Club and other groups filed such appeals.

“We’ve worked with the city of San Francisco for many, many years. We have a very good partnership,” Vintze said.

In the coming months, local, state and federal regulators and other agencies will address a host of additional environmental concerns pertaining to water pollution, dredging activities and construction of piers over the bay.

The nonprofit Baykeeper worries that waterfront construction will cause pollution to enter the water and help invasive seaweed spread around the bay. But it decided against filing an appeal against the environmental impact report because “water quality concerns” are being addressed through “stormwater regulations” and other rules, executive director Deb Self said.

Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors hearing will consider appeals filed by five groups — the Sierra Club, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, San Francisco Tomorrow, Golden Gate Audubon Society and Waterfront Watch.

The groups claim that measures outlined in the report fail to adequately protect the city and the region against litter, traffic impacts and air, noise and water pollution.

Mayor Ed Lee and media reports have characterized the groups as opponents of the America’s Cup — a claim that makes members of the groups bristle.

“The Sierra Club was an early supporter of the America’s Cup,” said Becky Evans, chairwoman of the club’s San Francisco chapter. “We’re not opposed to it — we just want it to be a green event.”

On Tuesday, supervisors could vote to certify or reject the environmental report. If similar hearings held in the past are any indication, the board is most likely to amend the report and then certify it.

Within seven business days of the board’s certification of the report, the event’s nonprofit organizing committee must show it has raised $12 million in donations to help meet costs associated with the regatta, including $2 million that the city spent preparing the environmental report. Under an agreement with the city, the organizing committee must eventually raise a total of $32 million.

Fears that the organizing committee may be unable to raise those funds, leaving the city on the hook for the costs or jeopardizing plans to hold the regatta, were addressed recently when the America’s Cup decided to donate much of the money itself.

Richard Worth, who was appointed CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority late last year amid a management shakeup designed to boost flagging sponsorship deals, told The Bay Citizen that it didn’t make sense to approach companies and ask them to buy sponsorships and also to donate to the event.

“In certain cases, where we would go to sponsor x, we’ll say, ‘Look, we want x amount,’” Worth said. “Then we will give a portion of that to the organizing committee.”

Worth said the appeals against the environmental report are normal for a “democratic society” and that he does not believe that they will delay the sailing event.

“I’m advised that it’s normal,” Worth said. “It will not hold up the America’s Cup.”

2 thoughts on “America’s Cup Pollution?”

  1. Excellent sentiments, Bob….I totally agree.
    The question I have is, isn’t the America’s Cup a SAILING race??…… how the hell much more “green” can you get than sailing.?.. guess it’s those evil power boaters that come to watch; I wouldn’t be surprised that the lowered numbers were the result of adjusting for the numbers of sail vs. power (one reason I think this is that the rationale or reason for the adjustment of the projections is conveniently left out of the story.) Anyway, the eco-nazis must always complaint about something.

  2. It’s about time the elitist snobs in the Sierra Club were blown off. San Francisico won’t do it. The America’s Cup ought to go someplace that they are wanted.

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