Denver-Based Company Uses Huge Diesel Generators To Grow Cannabis In East Oakland; Now the city is trying to shut them down

Michael Hunt, chief of staff for the Oakland Fire Department, said in an email earlier this month that the generators should have been used only temporarily and “were never intended for use. keep on going”.

Typically, Hunt said, a generator would be approved and licensed for 90 days. He said temporary approval was given after the July 2020 transformer outage “to ensure tenants live/work [at The Cannery] had the power. … Generators were at no time permitted as a permanent source of power.

Now that residents are receiving power from PG&E, “there is no justifiable need for generators to be used to maintain power to powered work units,” Hunt said. “The multiple unauthorized generators only increase the need for electricity to support cannabis-related businesses.”

Green Sage has also caught the attention of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Last month, the district filed its own Notice of Violation against the company for failing to obtain a permit to operate the generators. The notice prompted Green Sage to apply for an air district permit, but the agency said Monday the application remained incomplete.

In a recent interview on the site, council member Taylor said he was “frankly upset that warehouse owners are using industrial diesel generators as a permanent power source.”

“The generators are meant to be temporary, while we bridge a gap, not to be a long-term fixture in the community polluting and pushing chemicals into the air,” Taylor said.

He said he raised his concerns with city staff about ending the unauthorized use of generators.

A tank truck delivering diesel fuel to industrial generators outside the Green Sage cannabis complex on San Leandro Street in East Oakland. Seven generators on site require daily fuel deliveries and burn over 2,000 gallons of fuel per day. (Amaya Nicole Edwards/KQED)

“It’s something that we absolutely have to master,” Taylor said. “We need to do more to make sure this stops.”

Previous attempts by city officials to address violations of the Green Sage code show how difficult it has been for them to get the situation under control.

Last October, inspectors from three city agencies visited the Green Sage complex. That inspection, in turn, culminated in a Dec. 7 letter from city officials to partners Green Sage, Greer and Miller. The missive noted the “collapsed” PG&E transformer, the unauthorized electrical work, and the installation of the diesel generators “without the inspections and permits required by the city.”

The letter said Greer and Miller would need to obtain both a permit from the fire department and an approval from the city’s Building Office “for interim use” of the generators.

The message ended by warning Green Sage owners that “failure to work with the city and take meaningful corrective action to bring identified issues into code compliance will result in the city seeking all appropriate legal remedies, including fines, criminal penalties, suspension or revocation of any operating or occupancy permits and removal of generators.”

Hunt said inspectors returned to company properties on San Leandro Street in early January and “confirmed that state and local fire code violations were present and needed to be corrected.” But the generators kept running non-stop.

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In response to emailed questions last month, Greer said the generators are needed because PG&E does not provide enough electricity for the energy-intensive cannabis operations at Green Sage buildings.

But PG&E says it has worked with Green Sage to find energy solutions.

“While we cannot go into specific customer account details for privacy reasons, PG&E has provided various options and recommended designs to meet the customer’s electrical needs,” said PG&E spokesperson Tamar Sarkissian. in an emailed statement. “PG&E also has a capacity plan in place to help support the growth of its customers in Oakland’s cannabis industry.

Over the past year, Green Sage has said in a series of communications to tenants, city officials, regulators and KQED that it intends to install some form of clean-burning gas turbines to power the cannabis operations of their tenants.

“Given our current energy challenges, my mission is to help disconnect the cannabis industry from methane gas on dairy farms and develop a revolutionary alternative,” Greer said in an email to KQED. “I’m very excited to execute this solution so that other facilities around Oakland (and hopefully around the world) can do the same.

The regional air district says that while it has discussed with Green Sage the possibility of installing gas turbines on its properties, the company has yet to file an application to do so.

But that hasn’t stopped Greer from claiming on social media that generators are already operational at the San Leandro Street complex, which he calls “California’s largest indoor cannabis facility.” (Industry sources say California’s largest indoor potty facility — about five times the size of Green Sage properties — is actually in the town of Blythe, Riverside County.)

On his LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, Greer identifies himself as the founder and CEO of a company called New Grass Power LLC.

“New Grass Power is a renewable energy company that provides reliable, low-cost power to California’s largest indoor cannabis facility,” its profiles state. “We use turbines powered by renewable natural gas from dairy farms so our facilities can go carbon negative and disconnect from the grid.”

However, there is no evidence that New Grass Power provides electricity in Oakland or anywhere else.

In fact, Greer made statements in a January court filing that contradict his online claims about New Grass Power and make it clear that installing diesel generators has been standard operating procedure at warehouses on San Leandro Street. .

In a statement filed as part of an eviction action, Greer described how Green Sage provides electricity to its cannabis tenants.

“Defendants were advised at the time they signed the lease that Plaintiff provides electricity to all tenants (sic) by leasing diesel generators,” Greer wrote. “At the request of a tenant, the requestor orders a generator. Generators are only provided when a tenant is ready to test the cannabis cultivation equipment installed.”

Green Sage, which launched in 2014, states on its website that it aims to “set the standard for transparency, integrity and accountability in the cannabis industry.” The reality was more complicated.

Green Sage and its related companies — it operates under the names of at least half a dozen different LLCs registered by Greer and Miller — have frequently found themselves the target of lawsuits related to its Oakland business in court. state and federal in California, Colorado and Virginia.

The lawsuits have included allegations that Green Sage unlawfully attempted to force residential tenants out of The Cannery, that the company breached the terms of its leases with cannabis tenants, and that it failed to paid contractors for more than $3 million in work done at his San Leandro Street properties.

Green Sage responded in court with blanket denials of all the allegations.

Laura J. Boyer