Over 60 organizations send letter to Governor Murphy urging clean energy alternative
As dozens of residents delivered public comments at this morning’s NJ Transit board meeting condemning the agency’s recent actions to push for approval of a new gas fired power plant during the worst days of the pandemic, a coalition of community and environmental groups sent a letter to Governor Murphy urging him to block the proposal and replace it with a renewable energy and storage alternative.
The groups point out that the timing could not be worse for a new fossil fuel project: The state is focused on the immediate COVID public health crisis, and will face years of recovery and rebuilding that must focus on climate-friendly initiatives that will reduce harmful emissions and improve local air quality.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has made it impossible to ignore the direct link between public health and the dangerous levels of fossil fuel pollution in our state,” said Sam DiFalco, Organizer at Food and Water Action. “A new nationwide study by Harvard University concludes that populations exposed to higher levels of particulate matter, one of the main pollutants from burning fossil fuels, are more susceptible to the deadliest impacts of COVID-19. The stay at home orders have also shown us that our air quality will drastically improve with a reduction in fossil fuel use. New Jersey residents are now breathing cleaner air because of lower emissions, and this can be a long-term reality for our state if we commit to a rapid and fair transition to clean renewable energy, and that starts by stopping new dirty energy proposals like the NJ Transit fracked gas power plant. Governor Murphy must follow the science and protect public health by directing NJ Transit to cease all work on their dirty energy proposal, and replace it with a clean energy alternative for public transit resiliency.”
There is considerable urgency around the decision-making process. NJ Transit issued its final Environmental Impact Statement late on a Friday, with no period for public or inter-agency comment.
“It is shameful that NJ Transit is pushing their dirty fossil fuel plant in the middle of a public health emergency. Their reckless move to rubber stamp their power plant without looking at environmental impacts or alternatives will have major impacts to public health. This area has some of the worst air pollution in the country. When they say they care about the environment, they are full of hot air. We should be using better alternatives such as renewable energy,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We support federal funding going to NJ Transit to keep our trains moving and its employees with jobs. However, we should not be wasting that money on a fossil fuel power plant that would add major pollution to our air. This power plant is a dirty deal for dirty power.”
The groups are urging Governor Murphy to stop the proposed fracked-gas power plant and order NJ Transit to move forward with a renewable energy and storage alternative, and point out that the gas-fired plant is in direct conflict with the goals laid out in his administration’s own Energy Master Plan.
“Governor Murphy's shutdown has saved many, many lives during the Covid-19 pandemic – but, the proposed NJ Transit fracked gas power plant would harm people’s health for decades into the future,” said Paula Rogovan, Chair of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains. “The pollution would disproportionately impact environmental justice communities in Newark, Kearny and Jersey City, the same communities he promised to protect in his Emergency Order 23. Governor Murphy talks about the importance of listening to the scientists. The data on the health and climate impacts of this dirty energy project is clear, and the only logical conclusion for the Governor is to stop the NJ Transit power plant and support a Renewable Rail alternative.”
The letter also discusses recent research showing that exposure to air pollution heightens the risks associated with COVID-19. Like much of the state, the areas that would be directly impacted by emissions from the proposed plant are already saddled with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
“I have lived in Hoboken for over 40 years and this dirty power plant proposed only a few miles from my home would emit toxic pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter right into Jersey City Heights and Hoboken,” said Hoboken resident and community organizer Elizabeth Ndoye. “This means a future made more hazardous - a future in which my family, friends, neighbors, and fellow community members will be subjected to increased health risks for decades. Shame on NJ Transit for proposing this power plant in an area already subjected to some of the worst pollution in the U.S. Governor Murphy must stop this dirty fossil fuel project and move forward with a clean energy solution!”
There are also fiscal ramifications to the looming decision. As the letter notes, clean energy sources like wind and solar are already more economical than gas-fired power plants, and those trends are only likely to continue into the future, which could leave the state stuck with an expensive, polluting power source for decades.
The groups opposing the plant have weighed in at previous NJ Transit board meetings; most recently, 18 residents spoke out at an April 7 meeting.
“NJ Transit has told us it can’t work with us on investigating renewable energy solutions for its NJTRANSITGRID project during the pandemic,” said Ken Dolsky of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition. “At the same time, they’ve published a final Environmental Impact Statement that instead of looking for ways to power this project with renewable energy and storage, NJ Transit is spending its limited resources looking for ways to prove that clean energy can’t work.”
More background available at www.nomeadowlandspowerplant.com