20 NJ Legislators, Newark Mayor Call on Governor Murphy to stop Newark Gas Power Plant Proposal, Pursue a Renewable Alternative

On Monday, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and 20 members of the NJ legislature sent a letter to Governor Murphy voicing strong opposition to The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) plan to build a new gas plant in Newark’s Ironbound Community. The letter urges the Governor and PVSC to “withdraw its permit application to the NJDEP for a new methane gas burning power plant and demonstrate a good faith effort by the agency to explore alternatives and truly listen to the communities it will impact.”

This letter comes more than a year after the Governor stopped PVSC’s planned vote on the project contract at their January 2022 board meeting following widespread outcry and national media attention. PVSC was directed to do an environmental justice review of the project but with weaker stipulations than would be required by NJ’s landmark Environmental Justice Law signed in 2020 but not yet in effect.

“I join with many state legislators to call upon Governor Phil Murphy to end the plan to place a fourth gas power plant in the City of Newark. This plant does not symbolize progress nor does it address the need to strengthen the State’s commitment to remediate the disproportionate pollution minority communities find themselves burdened with. Placement of a fourth gas power plant in the City, goes against the State’s responsibility to establish clean energy solutions and address the problems created by prior energy plants in our community.” said Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Our residents deserve for the state to explore the clean energy solutions as already advocated for in its Energy Master Plan – not the placement of another plant. Newark will be proud to host a clean energy center in our East Ward, and we will collaborate in efforts to ensure that our residents are given the ability to live in an environmentally conscious community.”

The EJ review of PVSC’s proposed methane gas burning power plant is complete and is currently before the DEP for their review. The 2020 signing of the EJ law was supposed to mark the beginning of the end of the disproportionate siting of major polluting facilities in EJ communities and the myriad public health harms they bring. Though the law was signed two and a half years ago and the Murphy Administration promised to have rules in place by November 2021 so the law could go into effect, the rulemaking process is yet to be complete and Governor Murphy said on WNYC last week it still be months away (10:22 in here) even though the rule is ready to be adopted today.

“As one of the lead sponsors of the nation’s strongest environmental justice law, which can’t be implemented fast enough, I agree with making PVSC more resilient to increasingly frequent and severe weather due to the climate emergency, but it can’t come at the expense of another environmental injustice,” said Assemblyman John McKeon of the 27th legislative district.

Residents threatened by PVSC’s gas plant already suffer some of the worst polluted air in the country from numerous existing sources including an incinerator, three existing power plants, heavy industry, Newark airport, and thousands of diesel truck trips daily from the port of Newark and major highways.

“The Ironbound and surrounding regions already have some of the worst air pollution in the country. We cannot continue allowing even more polluting facilities near our most vulnerable residents, who already suffer from high rates of asthma, lung and heart diseases, said Assemblywoman McKnight of the 31st legislative district. “My constituents live directly downwind from PVSC’s facility, so I’m very concerned that this project will result in another polluting gas plant in our airshed.”

“While I applaud the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s aim to strengthen our power grid and make it more resilient, this proposed plant is not the best way to achieve this aim. We have an unfortunate history of overburdening marginalized communities with a disproportionate amount of pollution, and the health of Newark, Jersey City, and nearby populations could be adversely impacted,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherju of the 33rd legislative district. “I urge the PSVC to reevaluate how we can achieve the goal of power resiliency in an environmentally sound manner.

These elected leaders join a growing number of Newark residents and advocates who oppose this project and have commented at public hearings, written letters, marched, rallied, and spoken out in the media against the gas plant. Together they are demanding immediate action to prevent this grave environmental injustice looming over Newark and the Ironbound community and calling on Governor Murphy to work with PVSC to redesign their resiliency project without bringing a fourth gas plant to Newark.

“The community of Newark has repeatedly voiced that this plant is not wanted, despite the attempts to threaten us with more flooding. We know that this plant won’t stop us from flooding but will guarantee more health issues in our community. The EJ review of PVSC’s proposed methane gas burning review conducted by PVSC did not include any analysis of the cumulative public health impacts that would result from citing a 4th gas power plant in the Ironbound community, which is already one of the worst polluted neighborhoods in the entire country,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Organizing and Advocacy at the Ironbound Community Corporation. “The review also failed to adequately assess clean energy alternatives, both of which are required by the Environmental Justice Law. The Murphy administration has delayed the adoption of the EJ law rules, enabling PVSC to seek air permits before the EJ law goes into effect. PVSC’s attempt to obtain permits for their gas plant before the rules are implemented is a direct violation of our state’s commitments to our most vulnerable residents.”

“Newark residents need action, not lip service. We cannot afford any new industrial smokestacks like PVSC’s proposed gas plant. Whatever the intentions, PVSC’s plan unavoidably poisons our already too poisoned lungs and adds to the climate emergency. There are better options out there for our lungs, jobs, and the Bay,” said Kim Gaddy, the founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance and Clean Water Action National Environmental Justice Director. “Governor Murphy must reject a 4th gas plant in the Ironbound if he is to be true to environmental justice.”

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2 responses to “20 NJ Legislators, Newark Mayor Call on Governor Murphy to stop Newark Gas Power Plant Proposal, Pursue a Renewable Alternative”

  1. As one who suffers from asthma brought on by my three month service at Ground Zero after the terrorist attack on our country, I salute my representatives in the Assembly, Angelica Jimenez, Pedro Mejia, and their colleagues in both chambers who signed this letter. The product of burning methane gas, nitrogen oxide is strongly linked to asthma.

  2. In 2017, the wastewater treatment plant in West Caldwell installed a microgrid powered by solar panels and batteries, backed up by diesel generators.
    “When an extended outage occurs, the solar, storage and existing diesel generators can power the treatment facility for up to 10 days. The solar panels recharge the batteries during the day and discharge at night.” https://www.microgridknowledge.com/infrastructure/article/11431039/new-jersey-utility-installs-microgrid-at-waste-water-treatment-plant
    The driving time between the PVSC’s Newark WWT plant and the one in West Caldwell is 37 minutes. Or the Commissioners could call.

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