Sierra Club: Meadowlands Massive Power Plant: Murphy Must Reject

Meadowlands Massive Power Plant: Murphy Must Reject

The Diamond Generating Corp., a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi based out of California, is looking for state approval to build a gas-fueled power plant in the Meadowlands. The proposed North Bergen Liberty Generating Project would be one of the largest plants in the state and cost $1.5 billion and send electricity to New York City. The plant is proposed to go on a 15-acre parcel near Railroad Avenue on the banks of Bellman’s Creek in an industrial section of the town. They are seeking several permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

“Putting a giant natural gas power plants in the heart of the Meadowlands is a terrible idea. Not only would it threaten an already overdeveloped sensitive ecosystem, but it would pollute our air and water and seriously undermine our renewable energy goals. The DEP can not approve permits to allow this plant to ruin the Meadowlands while adding more air and water pollution to communities already overburdened by pollution. With this plant the company makes the money, New York gets the gas, and New Jersey gets stuck with the pollution, climate and health impacts,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is a densely populated area that’s already overburdened by pollution. We need the Murphy Administration to step in and stop this project from destroying New Jersey’s Meadowlands and undermining our goals for clean energy.”

Natural gas power plants and pipelines increases methane emissions, which are a huge greenhouse gas pollutant, while increasing toxic chemicals in our air. Methane contributes to smog formation, while adversely affecting public health like childhood asthma attacks, other respiratory ailments, and even premature death. The Bergen and Linden facilities also emit ammonia, which can irritate eyes, throat, lungs and skin and cause coughing and burns with exposure. Exposure to very high levels can also cause lung damage and death. Those with asthma may be more sensitive to the chemical. Other polluting facilities in New Jersey emit Chlorodifluoromethane, Propylene, Nitrate compounds, and N-hexane that all have adverse health effects. Plants also emit ultra-fine particulates that cause asthma.

“This massive natural gas plant would be one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gasses in New Jersey. These types of plants are monsters of air pollution in New Jersey emitting heavy metals and chemicals like ammonia and nitrogen oxide. That means natural gas power plants are not a clean bridge fuel as some people think and are causing serious health problems. It’s a bridge to the 1950’s. Our environmental justice communities already have some of the worst air quality in the nation and building another massive gas power plant will only exacerbate that,” said Jeff Tittel. “We also have serious ozone pollution in New Jersey because almost every county that conducts monitoring has a failing grade for ozone. Our ozone levels are so high that it may put sensitive individuals at risk, including such as children, the elderly and people suffering from asthma, heart disease and other lung ailments.”

Pollution from natural gas power plants can be worse than coal power plants when you look at the life-cycle analysis from cradle to grave. Methane emissions, is 87 more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Natural gas has 30 percent less carbon than coal when burned in the power plant, but has more methane released. If you look at leakage of methane from pipelines and drilling, natural gas has about the same emissions as coal, overall.

“A monster plant like this would use millions of gallons of water per day for the cooling system. Much of that water will be evaporated off. That steam will create chemical drift which can contain heavy metals like lead, algaecides and fungicides, and volatile organic compounds. This will have significant impacts on environment around this facility and could lead to a calamity. The companies that make cooling towers warn that the chemical drift could kill plant life near cooling towers,” said Jeff Tittel.

The effects that climate change could potentially have on New Jersey can be devastating from storm surges to flooding. The solution to mitigating these effects is investing in clean energy sources and denying dirty energy. The East Coast, with its large metropolitan areas and dense suburbs is hungry for jobs, investment and energy. As we continue to rebuild our coast in the wake of multiple storm events we need to invest in clean, renewable energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.

We should not be building more natural gas infrastructure if we want to reach Governor Murphy’s strong environmental and clean energy goals for New Jersey. If we want to get to 100% green energy by 2050 we need to focus on renewable energy such as solar and wind. We’re already seeing setbacks with the current nuclear subsidy bill and this power plant would be a one-two punch to clean energy and creating green jobs. We must promote clean energy and block dirty fossil fuels from continuing to infiltrate our state,” said Jeff Tittel. “The expansion of natural gas projects in New Jersey will only create more climate effects and hinder efforts to have a green economy.”

This project would be interconnected with Williams Transco’s proposal to expand their Gateway Project.  They want to update the system, including compressor stations, to transport more gas; 65,000 dekatherms per day. The Roseland compressor station located on Eagle Rock Avenue, nearby the Essex County Environmental Center. Four years ago, residents experiences dangerous odors that prompted school evacuations and other safety concerns. This gas is highly flammable and dangerous, as well as polluting.

“This project must be examined in context with the other infrastructure it would connect to and lead to being built in New Jersey. There would be more pipelines and compressor stations, including the proposed Gateway Project expansion. Despite our state having an oversupply of natural gas, they are continuing to push for more gas pipelines and infrastructure. Much of this gas is more likely to go out of state or to export rather than service the people of New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel.

The Meadowlands is an extremely environmentally sensitive and flood-prone area. Any growth in the region must be carefully balanced with protecting its natural resources and preventing flooding. The region is already overburdened with traffic and pollution. Overdeveloping the Meadowlands will not only put more people in danger of flooding but will impact wetlands and the fragile ecosystems. Since Christie dismantled the Meadowland Commission and turned them pro-development, the goals have changed. Instead of focusing on protecting and enhancing the natural habitat, they focus on building flood control projects, dikes, and walls around the Meadowlands. These types of hard structures are just used as an excuse for more intensive development on flood-prone areas.

“We must ask the Murphy Administration to stop this massive gas power plant from polluting our state and preventing us from reaching our renewable energy goals. The Meadowlands is an oasis of nature being an environmentally sensitive area in one of the most developed places anywhere in the country. In the Meadowlands you can be kayaking between salt grass and then turn the corner to see the New York skyline. The Meadowlands is a very important environmentally sensitive area in the most densely populated part of the state. Its resources are important for flood control, fisheries, and migratory birds. Even though it has its toxic legacy the contaminated sites and landfills are being cleaned up and it is getting better, but now overdevelopment is a big threat. The wetlands in the Meadowlands should not be paved over for unnecessary development,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This plant would send electricity to NYC at the expense of New Jersey’s lungs. The Meadowlands needs another power plant like it needs another Superfund Site.”

 

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