State agency makes move after widespread community opposition
NJ Transit has formally withdrawn its NJDEP application for an air quality permit that would have allowed it to build a new 140-megawatt fracked gas power plant in Kearny.
"This is a huge win for clean air and clean energy in NJ. In the midst of a deadly pandemic and escalating climate crisis, New Jersey cannot afford to build any new fossil fuel power projects, full stop,” said Food & Water Watch New Jersey State Director Matt Smith. “This is a major step towards fulfilling Governor Murphy's commitments to fight climate change and protect environmental justice, and puts NJ TRANSIT on track to lead the country in developing resilient, carbon free public transportation solutions."
The dirty energy plant, the core of the agency’s NJ TRANSITGRID TRACTION POWER SYSTEM, has been strongly opposed by local residents, elected officials and climate activists.
“This marks a new chapter in New Jersey’s history. Let’s close the books on fossil fuels and open the door for an equitable Green New Deal,” said Melanie Segal of TCM North Jersey.
“This is a win for the environment and good news for clean energy. Now that DEP have cancelled critical permits for NJ Transit’s power plant, they will not be able to come back. It’s an important win in killing an unnecessary plant that would have been the biggest source of pollution in the state. More importantly, it prevents a dirty facility to be built right in the middle of an Environmental Justice community,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
The Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition of more than 60 organizations held educational forums, organized rallies, lobbied elected officials, and spoke out at NJ TRANSIT board meetings. To date, 19 municipal governments have passed strong resolutions opposing the fracked gas plant and supporting a renewable energy alternative, including Newark, Kearny, Jersey City and Hoboken. More recently, 13 state legislators signed onto a letter calling on the governor to reject the power plant and replace it with a clean energy solution.
"I am overjoyed that Governor Murphy has withdrawn the air permit for the NJ Transit fracked gas power plant which would have spewed pollution to towns and cities in North Jersey, and which would have had a particularly harsh impact on communities of color and low income communities,” said Paula Rogovin of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, “We must continue to make sure that NJ Transit stays on track so we will see our vision of trains powered by Renewable Energy Hybrid Microgrid come to fruition. Perhaps this will become a model for all of NJ and other States!"
In October, NJ Transit announced at their monthly Board of Commissioners meeting that they would be shelving plans for a gas-based design for the microgrid and would instead move forward with a renewable energy alternative. However, until this week, the Title V air permit application remained in front of the DEP. Since NJ Transit’s October announcement, stakeholders and members of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands committee have called on NJ Transit to withdraw the permit to build trust with the public and show their commitment to a full redesign of the plan.
“The withdrawal demonstrates commitment to combat the climate crisis, protect environmental justice, and mitigate the ramifications on public health.” said Ashley Park, high school student and Food & Water Watch Intern. “It’s a major step to get off fossil fuels and paves the path for NJ’s renewable energy future!”
By setting a goal to develop what would become the largest renewable energy powered microgrid in the world, NJ TRANSIT has a once in a generation opportunity to create a more resilient public transportation system while positioning the state at the forefront of the clean energy economy.
“Our grassroots actions brought victory today for the health and well-being of New Jerseyans. We have shown Governor Murphy that a green environment and environmental justice for our communities of color are more important than propping up a dying fossil fuel industry,” said Liz Ndoye of Hoboken MoveOn. “A Green New Jersey comes from valuing all of our residents over the green of profit!”
Though the air permit has been withdrawn, NJ Transit still has work to do to ensure that their new project design procurement process utilizes as much renewable energy as technology feasible.
“While there is much more work to be done to support development of a renewable energy solution for NJ TRANSIT’S TRANSITGRID project, this is a great step in the right direction,” said Ken Dolsky, a member of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition.