NJ Transit gas grid won’t be built in South Kearny, agency says

Plans to build a new gas-powered grid in South Kearny have been scrapped by NJ Transit, the agency announced Jan. 26.

Instead, NJ Transit, with the approval of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), will redirecting $503 million in federal grant funding to support resiliency infrastructure improvements at Hoboken Terminal, County Yard in New Brunswick and the Raritan River Bridge.

This funding was originally allocated to NJ Transit’s TransitGrid Microgrid Central Facility in South Kearny.

NJ Transit says an intensive review of industry proposals for the MCF revealed the project was not financially feasible. Further, since the project was originally designed, multiple improvements to the affected power grid have been enacted that have functionally made the MCF as envisioned at that time much less necessary than other critical resiliency projects.

More specifically, PSE&G says it has made significant investments in power grid resiliency under a program called “Energy Strong” throughout the region that has greatly increased power reliability. To that end, NJ Transit management, along with its board of directors, determined the MCF funding would have greater benefit if applied to other key resiliency projects to harden the rail system’s more highly exposed infrastructure, which are at greater risk of failure in the face of increasing climate-related threats, and will directly benefit transit users every day.

“Reallocation of the MCF funding not only supports these high-priority resiliency projects, it also ensures that good-paying, union construction jobs that this funding supports remain in New Jersey,” NJDOT Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. “We appreciate the close partnership with the FTA that will better protect our transit system for all New Jerseyans.”

Kearny Mayor Carol Jean Doyle says she’s very grateful the plans have been changed, thereby sparing Kearny of yet another unwanted state project.

“Thank you, Gov. Murphy, for redirecting funds to correct issues because of Super Storm Sandy,” Doyle said. “I am happy to hear that union construction jobs continue to ensure our residents keep working. The Town of Kearny is appreciative of ‘Don’t Gas the Meadowlands advocates for clean air in Kearny.”

Meanwhile, numerous environmental activists and advocates chimed in after the news was announced Jan. 26.

“EmpowerNJ and its partners, the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition, and local (environmental-justice) activists have spent years advocating against a gas-based solution for NJ Transit’s TransitGrid project. Our efforts have clearly demonstrated the weaknesses and inferiority of a gas-powered solution, the associated harms to the climate and the local population from added air pollution, and the advantages of a renewable energy-based solution. Today NJ Transit finally acknowledged that their ill-conceived TransitGrid project had to be canceled,” Ken Dolsky, of the Empower NJ Coalition, said.

“It is unfortunate NJ Transit has never sincerely investigated the use of renewable energy for this project including the hundreds of acres of its property for solar energy as we have advocated. NJ Transit dropped the ball on a huge opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art renewable based project both to power their trains and as a viable revenue source to aid its deep financial problems.”

Dolsky was joined in jubilation by Paula Rogovin, of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition.

“Today’s victory belongs to the thousands of people who marched and rallied, spoke out at NJ Transit Board of Commissioners meetings, signed petitions, made phone calls, attended forums, lobbied over 20 towns and cities to pass resolutions, and got over 70 officials to sign on a statement in opposition to the polluting gas power plant,” Rogovin said.

“But despite all the risks this gas plant posed to public health and our climate, NJ Transit, a public agency who should have been living up to our state’s climate and environmental justice commitments, canceled the project without one word in their public statement about preventing pollution impacts. This is shameful.”

Lastly, there was Matt Smith, New Jersey’s director of Food & Water Watch.

“This is a victory for the grassroots activists who never stopped pushing the Murphy administration to reject a scheme to place a new fossil fuel project near communities that have suffered from decades of industrial pollution,” Smith said. They did not accept the bogus notion that a fracked gas plant could be a sustainability solution in the midst of a climate emergency.

“The Murphy administration has professed its commitment to climate and environmental justice. Stopping the Transitgrid gas plant is a step in the right direction. To deliver on his climate and environmental justice commitments, the governor must reject a nearly identical project proposed less than three miles away in Newark, where (the) Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority, another state agency, is proposing to build a major fracked gas power plant.”

Story updated at 7 p.m. with additional comments from environmental activists.

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.