Hundreds March in Opposition to Meadowlands Power Plant
Student-led action challenges Governor Murphy to take action
(Note: Photos of the rally and march are available here.)
RIDGEFIELD, NJ – Led by a core team of local high school students, about 500 people marched through the streets of Ridgefield on Saturday in opposition to a massive gas-fired power plant proposed in the Meadowlands.
The event, called March for Our Lungs, was the culmination of months of organizing by students from Ridgefield Memorial High School, Leonia High School and Bergen County Technical School. The event drew students from as far away as Jersey City and Morristown.
Giving speeches in English, Spanish, and Korean, the students spoke about the risks the plant would pose to local air quality, the need to combat climate change, and the environmental justice implications of locating a power plant in communities already burdened with pollutions.
“When I heard about this project and what it could possibly do, I said to myself, ‘If protesting and marching in the streets can make my voice heard on behalf of all of our communities, then that is exactly what I will do,’” said Arturo Garcia, a senior at Ridgefield Memorial High School. “I am committed to continue marching and protesting until this project is finally rejected.”
“We need to work together to improve our air and water quality, and not let private corporations increase pollution for their profit,” saidRidgefield Memorial High School student Laura Suarez, one of the organizers of the march.
Mitsubishi subsidiary Diamond Generating Corporation is proposing to build a massive gas-fired power plant in the Meadowlands to deliver electricity to New York City. The facility would exacerbate local air pollution problems in an area already struggling with unhealthy levels of smog and burdened with emissions from a large power plant located less than a mile away. If built, the facility would likely be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the state.
“The rehabilitation of the Meadowlands, which has been a triumph for local groups that have worked hard to recover this area, would be squandered in order to provide power to New York City residents,” said Soana Ballolli, a senior at Bergen County Technical High School. “Supporters of this power plant justify their actions by calling this area a dump. They say it doesn’t matter if we pollute here, because it’s an industrial corridor. But guess what? People live here. A lot of people. And we’re fighting back.”
The students also connected the battle to stop this plant to the larger statewide movement calling on Governor Murphy to institute a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects. “Governor Murphy promised to protect environmental justice communities,” said Romina Rojas, a senior at Bergen Tech. “We are demanding that Governor Murphy put a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects.”
Local and state elected officials joined the rally to support the students’ demands. Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez and several council members were on hand, along with State Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese.
Mayor Suarez told the crowd that he has appealed to Governor Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney to come out in opposition to the power plant, but has not received a commitment from either Democratic leader. “We need to keep going forward, we need to fight this fight, because they’re not listening to us,” said Mayor Anthony Suarez.
Senator Loretta Weinberg praised the energy and passion of the student leaders. “The phrase keeps coming through my mind: ‘And the children shall lead them,’” said Senator Weinberg. “I’ve been involved in politics and public life for more years than most of you have been alive. And it’s the last year that has given me hope for the future. And it is because of the students, the young people, who are leading us.”
Closing the pre-march rally was Rutgers professor and renowned author and climate activist Naomi Klein. She connected the global climate movement, the Green New Deal and a just transition to clean energy to the fight against this power plant. “The world is on fire, as Great Thunberg has told us, but the youth climate justice movement is on fire too.”
Hundreds marched from the high school to the edge of the site of the proposed plant, which sits on the border of Ridgefield and North Bergen.
(Photos of the rally and march are available here.)