"That's outrageous," said Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling, shortly after the message arrived in his e-mail inbox on Friday afternoon. "These people don't live in Hayward. ... If it's such a great deal, why don't you bring it to your own city?"
The San Leandro business network e-mailed 1,100 people on its membership and e-mail lists, asking them to "join chamber leaders in showing support for the proposed Eastshore Energy Center."
The e-mail urged members to print out and mail a form letter to the California Energy Commission in support of the 115-megawatt gas-burning plant. It also warned that "a group of individuals is trying to kill" the project.
Dowling said he objected to the tone of the letter, a nearly identical version of which went out to members of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce last week.
The Hayward City Council voted unanimously to oppose the power plant in March, although the state has ultimate authority on whether it is built. The state Energy Commission has also reported receiving more than 1,300 letters against the plant so far.
"The council's against it, and most of the community is against it," Dowling said. "Everybody but the chamber is against it."
San Leandro Chamber CEO Diana Gentry said her organization decided to lend its support to the plant after receiving a request from Gordon Galvan, a local consultant for Texas-based plant developer Tierra Energy, and after talking to Tom Guarino, a community affairs representative for Pacific Gas & Electric.
Galvan is also a former San Leandro councilman who serves on the San Leandro Chamber's government relations committee. Guarino is a former CEO of the San Leandro Chamber who also serves on the government relations committee. Neither participated when the board voted last week to support the plant, Galvan said.
"We asked for their support," Galvan said. "We're going to ask a lot of people for their support. It's not just a Hayward issue, it's a regional issue."
Since the plans became known to the public late last year, proponents have argued that Eastshore's 14 internal combustion engines will help ensure safe, reliable electricity in the Hayward area. The facility would be a "peaker" plant, meant to generate energy for PG&E's power grid during periods of peak demand.
"As a chamber, we feel the project is good business," said Heidi Finberg, a former San Leandro Chamber CEO who said she brought the issue to the chamber's government affairs board on Galvan's behalf. "I don't know of any business, any real organized group, that is opposed to it."
Finberg said Galvan gave a presentation last week, and Guarino "spoke about it from an energy perspective."
Guarino did not return a call or e-mail for comment Friday, but PG&E spokesman David Eisenhauer called Guarino and was told that Guarino "abstained from voting" on the issue.
PG&E signed a contract more than a year ago to buy electricity from Tierra's future plant on Clawiter Road in west Hayward. But the investor-owned utility company has mostly avoided attending public meetings on the project, arguing that it is a third party to the proceedings and not directly involved.
"There's not a whole lot of information we can provide beyond what our contract is with (Tierra), to buy electricity from them," Eisenhauer said.
The e-mail sent to chamber members Friday indicates in the subject line that it is a paid advertisement for Tierra. It criticizes opponents who "ignore crucial facts" about the project's environmental impacts and its community benefits.
"Among the facts that they ignore is that California has a host of public agencies such as the California Energy Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District that have scrutinized this project," the letter states. "Those who oppose the project prefer to utilize scare tactics and misinformation to create fear in individuals."
The air district has reviewed the project and determined it will comply with district standards as long as Tierra buys credits to reduce excess pollution elsewhere. The commission has not yet released its preliminary assessment of the project.
Gentry said chamber leaders voted to support the project because they believe it will help prevent rolling blackouts and brownouts.
"It has an effect on all businesses in Alameda County," Gentry said.
Andrew Wilson, a Hayward resident who has been one of the plant's most active opponents, said he believes the chamber's letter itself misinforms by overstating the specific local benefits to energy reliability.
"It's like a scatter network, it's not like a highway," Wilson said of the energy grid. "If you lose a line one place, they'll bring it in another way."
Critics have said they don't believe Clawiter Road is an appropriate place for the plant because it would be emitting pollutants less than a mile away from homes and schools. There is also another power plant, the 600-megawatt Russell City Energy Center, being proposed farther west in the same general area.
Gentry said the chamber has not taken a position on the Russell City Energy Center, or other power plant proposals, because it has not been asked to do so.
Galvan said the businesses represented by local chambers should be concerned about reliable power.
"You could generate in Tracy, you could generate in Reno, but then you have to build transmission lines," Galvan said. "It's needed here because this is where we have people living and working and businesses."
The Energy Commission's preliminary assessment of the Eastshore project, looking at environmental and other impacts, is scheduled to be completed by the end of July. The same assessment for the Russell City project was due Friday, and an official said it should be uploaded on the commission's Web site by this morning.
Matt O'Brien at (510) 293-2473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.