Three months after the governor of New Jersey suspended the proposal, a New Jersey sewage treatment facility in a minority neighborhood is moving forward with its plan for a gas-fired energy plant.
Governor. Phil Murphy directed the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission pause a plan for the largest portion of a $180million backup power plant. This is to be in place when the main facility goes offline.
After residents of Newark’s Ironbound section complained about the fact that they were already the most affected by the many sources of pollution in the state’s largest city, the governor took action.
The commission has submitted a request to the Department of Environmental Protection for a modification to its air quality permit. It plans to hold a public hearing next week. According to the DEP, this permit is the final major approval that the project will need.
Residents and activists spoke Wednesday at a community garden in the middle of the industrialized area. There were dozens upon dozens passing garbage trucks and tractor-trailers making their point. The roar of jets as they approached Newark Liberty International Airport shaken the ground and drowned out any conversations.
“We deserve clean air,” said 9-year-old Destiny Tate. It stinks so bad. “We can’t continue living like this.”
All this is happening while Murphy’s 2020 environmental justice law, a Democrat, has yet to take full effect. The state is still drafting regulations regarding the law.
Christi Peace, the spokesperson for Governor, stated that his administration is “committed to avoiding and reducing factors which could contribute to existing environmental stressors in overburdened areas across our state.”
Nicky Sheats is the director of Kean University’s Center for the Urban Environment. She said that similar conflicts are occurring across the country.
He said, “In neighborhoods of colour, there often are multiple sources for pollution spewing multiple effects.” “The law is meant to protect communities such as the one we’re standing in now.”
A spokesperson for the commission didn’t respond Wednesday to a request for comments. The commission stated on its website that it was complying with the intent under the environmental justice law.
According to the commission, it has taken many steps to modify the proposal since January when the governor intervened.
It stated that it would incorporate “state-of-the art” pollution control systems that go beyond state requirements.
According to the commission, it will not run the backup power plant in an emergency or for basic maintenance. The backup plant would only be used for 12 days per year if there are no emergencies.
A plan to use the backup power station on days with high electric demand was dropped by the commission. It claims that it will reduce operating time to 700 hours. It claims it will install all the technically possible solar power.
It plans to switch from natural gas to cleaner fuels, and even use battery power, as soon as possible.
This backup power plant was created to prevent a repeat of the 2012 Superstorm Sandy, in which nearly a billion gallons raw sewage flooded into waterways nearby after the plant lost electricity.
According to the commission, streets in the Ironbound section could become flooded with raw sewage if there is a severe storm or if the power goes out at the sewage treatment plant.
Gregory Tramontozzi (executive director of the commission), stated in January that such an outcome would be “catastrophic” and “unacceptable”.
Residents claim that there are three power plants in the Ironbound area. The Ironbound section is named after the three railroad tracks that surround it.
Alexandra Nunez, a Newark social work worker, stated that children living in Ironbound are affected by multiple sources of pollution.
She said that she has heard students tell her about bad smells in their area and how it ruins their day because they cannot go outside to play.
Robert Laumbach, Rutgers University’s public health expert, stated that the cumulative effects from pollution in areas like Ironbound only get worse over time.
He said that in certain communities already overwhelmed by air pollution, an increase in it is too much.