Residents and lawyers speak out against PVSC gas plant in public hearing
Today, dozens of Newark residents and activists from across New Jersey spoke out at a public hearing against plans by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission to build a new gas-fired power plant at their processing facility. sewage in the Ironbound community of Newark.
“The last thing Ironbound needs is another powerhouse. Residents here are already experiencing high levels of pollution from many sources, including three other gas-fired power plants, NJ’s largest waste incinerator, heavy industry, Newark Airport, truck and train traffic and major highways. Ironbound is the definition of an overloaded community,” said Maria Lopez-Nuñez, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Organizing at Ironbound Community Corporation. “Newark’s increasing pollution burden continues NJ’s legacy of environmental racism. The community has done its job in sounding the alarm, we need our elected officials to step up and help us put an end to this grave injustice. We cannot solve a problem by hurting children’s lungs. »
Despite the landmark Environmental Justice Act Governor Murphy signed in 2020 that is expected to prevent projects like this from being located in overburdened communities, PVSC is seeking final approval for its power plant before commissioning. work of the law. Interim Administrative Order 2021-25, to which the PVSC is subject, does not include the requirement that a cumulative assessment of public health and environmental impacts be conducted prior to a permitting decision – a key provision of the law on the EE.
“It is disappointing that PVSC has chosen to forego a thorough cumulative impact assessment under the upcoming EJ Act, ignoring the sentiment of thousands of Newark and statewide residents who are demanding that communities EJ are no longer treated as sacrifice areas,” said Dr. Ana Isabel Baptista, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Co-Director of the Tishman Environment and Design Center at New School University.
“All of NJ was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but Newark residents, especially the Ironbound, are continually impacted by the looming environmental pollution health crisis,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
Approval of the project would undermine Governor Murphy’s stated commitment to phase out fossil fuels and protect clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for all residents, regardless of zip code.
“Newark residents need their concerns addressed, not just lip service. We cannot afford new smokestacks like the gas plant proposed by PVSC. There are better options for our lungs, our jobs and our bay,” said Kim Gaddy, National Environmental Justice Director of Clean Water Action and Founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance. “PVSC and the Murphy administration must rethink the construction of a fourth gas plant in the Ironbound if their words about environmental justice are to mean anything but another environmental injustice.”
The people of Newark have a long history with polluting facilities and their effects on our health. The new environmental legislation, which is designed to protect us, has not yet had the desired effect,” said Cynthia Mellon, Co-Chair of the City of Newark Environmental Commission. “We are carefully monitoring PVSC’s promises to the community, but due to the pollution overload experienced by Newark, we ask that this gas-fired power plant not be built and that PVSC look for other ways to increase the resilience of its central. We need to move away from fossil fuels now.
After widespread opposition to a vote to move this project forward that had been scheduled for the PVSC board meeting in January, Governor Murphy stepped in and ordered PVSC to cancel it and conduct an assessment of the renewable alternatives. Although PVSC issued a tender for renewable energy proposals earlier this year, they have still not completed their review.
“PVSC is rushing through the EJ Act public hearing process for its outdated gas plant idea before it has even finished considering proposals for renewable energy sources that could replace the need for a new one. polluting factory,” said Jonathan Smith, Senior Counsel at Earthjustice. “We need PVSC to pump the brakes and thoughtfully consider alternatives that could save the health of Ironbound residents and help New Jersey achieve its decarbonization goals – not through another gas plant in a neighborhood that already has more gasworks than anywhere else in the state.”
This public hearing comes less than a week after more than 130 health care professionals held a press conference against the project and sent a letter to Governor Murphy signed by more than 130 health care workers regarding the public health impacts. of the increase in pollution in the Ironbound.
“Fossil fuel pollution is estimated to cause more than 10.2 million premature deaths,” said dr. Lisa Cerceo, MD, academic hospitalist with a special interest in environmental health and the impacts of climate change. “But it’s far too easy to fall into the trap of just looking at these numbers as numbers. They are children with asthma, grandparents with lung cancer, fathers with heart attacks and mothers with poor birth outcomes.
The PVSC will receive public comments on this proposal over the summer, which will be considered by the NJDEP before deciding whether or not to grant permits to the PVSC to build the gas plant. In the meantime, Newark residents and their allies across the state remain committed to getting Governor Murphy to stop this project and order PVSC to redesign it with a renewable energy alternative.
“The way forward has never been clearer,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey State Director with Food & Water Watch. “Governor Murphy must order his own agency, PVSC, to cancel their contract for the gas turbines, withdraw their air permit application for the polluting power plant, and redesign the project so that it no longer pollutes Newark and Commons. neighbours. »