Faced with community opposition, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) pulled a planned vote to begin construction on a new $180 million gas-fired power plant at the agency’s sewage facility in the Ironbound section of Newark. The move came at the request of Governor Murphy, who released a statement saying that “it is imperative that the project adheres to the Administration’s core values on environmental justice.” The governor’s statement calls for “a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process, ensuring that the voices of the community are heard.” “Governor Murphy has reaffirmed his commitment to Environmental Justice by canceling today’s vote,” said Maria Lopez-Nunez, Director of Environmental Justice and Community Development with Ironbound Community Corporation. “Our community needs a real process to evaluate alternatives to the power plant like the one NJTRANSIT has initiated for their resiliency project right next door in Kearny. We need to bring in real resources and experts to find a solution that does not hurt the lungs of our children and in no way contributes to climate change. Even though we cut it close, I’m proud of the work being done in New Jersey to safeguard Environmental Justice and look forward to more partnership between our communities and the Governor of this great state.” The shift comes after nearly a year of community-led opposition to this project, which would worsen air quality in a region overburdened by fossil fuel pollution. Approving the project would undermine Governor Murphy’s professed commitment to phase out fossil fuels, as well as a new state law intended to protect environmental justice communities from new sources of pollution.
“Governor Murphy this morning has demonstrated real environmental justice leadership, thank you! Newark residents have been heard,” said Kim Gaddy, Clean Water Action National Environmental Justice Director and the founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance. “We have had enough. We cannot afford any new industrial smokestacks. Whatever their other intentions, they unavoidably poison our already too poisoned lungs and add to the climate emergency. There are better options out there for our lungs, our jobs, and our Newark Bay. We look forward to working with PVSC, the Murphy Administration and appreciate this pause to ensure we have the right process and get to the right result. Today’s meeting shows we still have a long way to go.”“Delaying this project is the right thing to do because new facilities should serve and protect overburdened communities—not increase harm and pollution,” said Cynthia Mellon, Co-Chair – City of Newark Environmental Commission. “We need a real process that centers robust community engagement to achieve a solution that protects public health today and a safe environment for future generations.” “Today’s decision to cancel the vote is a critical first step towards fulfilling Governor Murphy’s commitments to protect clean air for all New Jerseyans,” said Matt Smith, NJ State Director of Food & Water Watch. “But at today’s meeting PVSC continued to greenwash their dirty power plant. In light of PVSC’s remarks today and their action to date, we need a strong public commitment from Governor Murphy that he will not issue the air permit for the polluting power plant plant, and instead order PVSC to re-design the resiliency project in a way that brings no further pollution to Newark and neighboring communities.”