Could another state agency be in cahoots with Gov. Philip D. Murphy to mess with the Town of Kearny, its people, its leaders and its neighbors? It sure seems that way — and because of it all, Mayor Alberto G. Santos and numerous members of the Town Council joined public health experts, concerned residents and environmentalists at a forum Monday, Nov. 14, at the Kearny Public Library to raise awareness about the dangers of building a new methane gas-burning power plant in South Kearny.
Yup, you read that correctly — a methane gas-burning power plant is being proposed for South Kearny — less than three years after the town last battled yet another state agency, the NJ Sports & Exposition Authority, that time over the Keegan Landfill.
This forum, organized by members of the “Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition,” gave speakers a chance to discuss the project’s risks to residents’ health and the environment and clean energy alternatives that would provide a better alternative.
“We are concerned about the direction of NJ Transit’s gas plant proposal for our town and the impact of more fossil fuel pollution on not just on our community, but on the many municipalities surrounding NJ Transit’s project in this region already overburdened by environmental and health stressors,” Santos said. “While we need to build infrastructure that is resilient to a changing climate, we need to figure out how to do it in a way that won’t negatively impact the health, environment, and quality of life for those in this region.”
The meeting was part of an ongoing advocacy campaign calling on the Murphy administration to reject a toxic gas-burning power plant. For nearly two years, activists across New Jersey have rallied, marched, lobbied, written letters and have spoken out at public meetings against the proposal.
In the fall of 2020, Gov. Philip D. Murphy directed NJ Transit to redesign the “Transitgrid” project to maximize the use of renewable energy. Unfortunately, the updated RFP (Request for Proposal) from NJ Transit suggests they still intend to build a massive new fossil fuel power plant in South Kearny.
“Despite direction from Gov. Murphy to redesign the Transitgrid project to maximize renewable energy, which came after widespread opposition from 19 North Jersey municipalities and 14 state legislators and thousands of New Jersey residents, NJ Transit is still leaving the door wide open to dirty energy,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey director of Food & Water Watch.
“Without decisive action now, the governor will be allowing NJ Transit to sink over $500 million into an ill-conceived project that will foul the air and environment in one of the most pollution-overburdened regions of the country. If Gov. Murphy is serious about his clean energy and climate commitments, he must order NJ Transit to redesign the Transitgrid project without a massive new fossil fuel power plant.”
At the meeting here in Kearny, two public-health experts — Dr. Sarah Evans (PhD, MPH of Mount Sinai) and Dr. Khalil Savary (MD of Rutgers Medical School) — spoke of the risks to children’s health from fossil fuels and industrial pollution.
“Air pollutants emitted by gas-fired power plants are linked to a myriad of health effects including asthma, heart disease, cancer, impaired brain development, premature birth and others,” Evans, an assistant professor of environmental medicine and public health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in Manhattan, said. “Construction of this plant would be detrimental to the health of residents of Kearny as well neighboring towns, all of which are considered overburdened under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law.”
The plant, if built, would be operational 24-7-365(6). It would be used, in part, to power NJ Transit train and light rail lines that might go offline in the event of a natural disaster similar to 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. If built, it would be yet another promise made and not kept by Murphy, who made it clear he wanted Jersey to be fossil fuel independent in the not-too-distant future.
We asked Santos whether a potential alternative solution to the proposal — such as it not always being online — exists. The mayor says it’s too early in the process to be certain.
“It’s too soon to say whether there can be a compromise (such as primary solar-powered with backup of gas-powered if batteries are depleted). At this juncture, it appears NJ Transit is sticking to all gas-powered power because it wants to maximize power in order to send it into the grid and collect revenue from it,” Santos said. “I think all-gas should be a definite ‘no’ from the Murphy Administration, which has set high goals for carbon emission reductions for the state. Not to oversimplify, but you do have to walk the talk. Any hybrid proposals would have to be analyzed, but we’re not there yet (and I don’t know if we’ll get there).”
Meanwhile, organizers strongly urged locals to write the governor, email him, call his office, Tweet at him, tag him in Facebook posts and even birddog him, which means showing up at places and events he’s scheduled to attend unrelated to the NJ Transit proposal — to protest and to voice opposition to the plan.
Residents were also urged to attend — either in person or virtually — meetings of the NJ Transit Board of Commissioners which, unless otherwise determined, take place at NJ Transit Corporate Headquarters, 1 Penn Plaza East, Newark.
Upcoming meetings are scheduled for Dec. 14 at 10 a.m.; Feb. 8, 2023, at 6 p.m.; March 13, 2023, at 6 p.m.; and April 19, 2023, at 10 a.m. There is no meeting scheduled for January 2023.
Learn more about the NJ Transit board at www.njtransit.com/board.
Learn more about the fight against the NJ Transit proposal at www.nomeadowlandspowerplant.com.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.