Environmental advocates held a seminar at Hudson County Community College in Journal Square on fighting the Kearny power plant, opposing the $10.7 billion NJ Turnpike expansion, and protecting Liberty State Park.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Sustainable Jersey City, the Journal Square Community Association, and Food and Water Watch NJ held it.
New Jersey Food and Water Watch New Jersey State Director Matt Smith noted that NJ Transit has sought to build a power plant.
“Jersey City was at the forefront the first time we won … or thought we won,” he recalled.
Smith noted Gov. Phil Murphy (D) first ran for office on a platform in favor of green energy.
“But despite that campaign promise, despite several state laws enacted under the Murphy Administration, New Jersey still has less than 10 percent of our electricity coming from clean, renewable energy,” he said.
“The Murphy administration seemed determined to move the project forward. It’s going to make the climate crisis worse.”
He noted that most industrial and power plants are located near poor, minority communities.
Smith also recalled that in 2020, Murphy had them shelve it for a clean alternative.
“We thought we won. The plan NJ Transit had was to do a redesign. It really wasn’t revised at all,” he stated.
Despite the PATCO HIGH Speedline train in South Jersey turning to solar power, NJ Transit is still calling for a gas power plant.
Smith explained that the site in Kearny where they want to build is a Brownfield that is very polluted on the banks of the Hackensack River and a thin cap is on top of a great deal of polluted soil.
“Building a power plant there could breach the cap. We’re talking about millions of people who would be directly in the way. The smoke stacks emissions will blow right into Jersey City. NJ Transit is proposing to run the plant 24/7/365 … at the expense of HC residents,” he asserted.
“We’re right back where we started. We know we can stop this. It is going to take a lot of work … We might not be able to avoid the worse effects of climate change.”
He noted Ward E Councilman James Solomon has been receptive to their efforts, along with Council President Joyce Watterman. They are seeking the support of the full city council, as well as the Hudson County Board of Commissioners.
“Chronic diseases are on the rise. We know there are environmental factors,” Dr. Sarah Evans, of Mount Sinai Medical School, said.
She continued that studies have shown living near a gas-fired power plant causes several health conditions. Pregnant women and children, especially those in minority communities, are most commonly affected.
“Environmental racism has led to health inequities,” Evans added.
“Expanding highways doesn’t work. It doesn’t reduce congestion … Jersey City has people in the legislature who really have not stepped up” John Reichman, counsel for Empower NJ who has been a leader in the fight to oppose the Turnpike expansion, stated.
Reichman urged people to sign their petition and tell their elected officials to oppose it, noting that they really want to bring the fight on this issue during the next legislative budget season, pointing out that the cost of the project has more than doubled.
“Think of what we could do with $10.7 billion,” he said, further stating that the money would be better spent on public transit, also pointing out that 40 percent of greenhouse gases from cars
From there, Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin explained the latest developments at the park.
He noted that the National Park Service has a draft agreement with tourist companies to have helicopters fly over the park daily during all hours of the day.
“It’s insane to have helicopters flying over,” Pesin exclaimed.
Pesin believes billionaire Paul Fireman, the CEO of the nearby Liberty National Golf Course, wants to build another golf course on the park’s interior, which the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is cleaning up.
Murphy signed the Liberty State Park Conservation, Recreation, and Community Inclusion Act into law in June despite opposition from groups such as the FLSP who feared this could lead to Caven Point being developed.
While state Senator Brian Stack (D-33), also the Union City mayor, introduced a bill to protect Caven Point, though it hasn’t made it far.
“The billionaire in cahoots with developers and local puppets wants to kill it,” Pesin proclaimed.
The People’s Park Foundation, a local nonprofit that has admitting to receiving funding Fireman’s foundation, has been publicly pushing for this along with basketball and other sports fields in the interior.
“Regular people won’t be able to get into the park, and those events won’t be affordable to low-income people,” Pesin said.
“We have a political system … that serves the interests of the politically connected. The other side has all the money, and we have all the people,” Smith asserted.