Environmental leader calls on Murphy to impose moratorium on fossil fuel projects

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Over 200 people participated in a Hudson County Climate Town Hall last night, where five panelists, all recognized for their research and activism, spoke about changing industrial policies to combat climate change.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop gave the opening statements to kickoff the event, each highlighting policies they’ve enacted such as converting their municipal fleet to electric vehicles.

“What are we actually doing about climate change in Hoboken? We’re trying to do our small part in the area of fossil fuels. I was very proud to announce several weeks ago that Hoboken is the first city in the State of New Jersey to purchase 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources to power its municipal operations,” said Bhalla.

Fulop noted a variety of initiatives the city is undertaking, but he focused on the need to pass legislation in the state legislature to finally protect Liberty State Park from private development.

The initiative, spearheaded by local state lawmakers, comes after numerous attempts by previous governors to build some type of project right in the heart of the park that would impede open space; the last attempt by Gov. Chris Christie (R) was a plan to allow private yachts to dock in the park’s marina.

“If you look back at the park’s 20-year history, every governor does the same exact thing whether you’re Democrat or a Republican, you think of an idea that would be better use of the park: whether it’s a race track, golf course, we’ve seen hotels, we’ve seen it all,” said Fulop.

“Every single time it takes advocacy and the community organizing and being very vocal and always it ends the same way where the governor and the legislature backs away, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of resources that can really be used for much, much more productive, forward looking things.”

The Climate Town Hall comes on the heels of the freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) proposed Green New Deal, which calls for a radical transformation of the nation’s energy sources away from fossil fuels to more environmentally-friendly power sources such as wind farms and solar panel systems.

However, the Green New Deal died in the Senate last month with a 57-0 vote, with all Republicans and four Democrats voting against it after Republicans blasted the proposal as an unrealistic, far left idea.

Nonetheless, as a result of Cortez’s proposal, momentum is building towards more action to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, and many of the attendees at last night’s town hall said they’re heartened by the fact that many of the leading Democrats in the field for the 2020 presidential campaign are making climate action a part of their platform.

But in New Jersey, the state has proposed 13 fossil fuel projects that climate activists such as Jeff Tittel, the New Jersey Sierra Club’s executive director, says needs to be stopped.

Some of the projects in addition to the North Bergen Liberty Generating Power Plant include pipeline and compressor projects such as the PennEast Pipeline, the South Jersey Gas Pipeline in the Pinelands and the Phoenix Energy Center in the New York-New Jersey Highlands.

We interviewed Tittel on camera about those initiatives.

“The governor says he wants to get 100 percent renewables and reduce greenhouse gases; if you build the North Bergen generating station, that’s over 3 million tons of greenhouse gases, that’ll blow away any reductions he’s going to try to get through [inaudible] or anything else,” Tittel began.

“The governor says he wants to get to 100 percent renewable: you can’t get to that if you’re building power plants and pipelines. It goes against what he’s saying. So, what we are here today is to say to the governor, ‘keep your word.’ The only way you can get to 100 percent renewable and deal with greenhouse gases and climate change is not to build these fossil fuel pipelines and power plants.”

According to Tittel, there is a substantial renewable energy project for generating 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind that would produce as much electricity as the North Bergen power plant waiting for approval from the state Board of Public Utilities.

But should the power plant go on line, it would entirely negate the offshore wind project.

“The problem is if you invest in all these power plants, it’s going to block that from happening because you can only generate so much electricity. If your building power plants on shore, you’re not going to be able to build offshore wind because you’re not going to be able to get the money to invest in it. And you can only sell so much electricity, and if you build the power plants before the wind mills, then people will be getting that electricity rather than from wind, and that’s why the moratorium [to stop the plant’s construction] is important,” Tittel said.

It’s been almost exactly one year since North Bergen officials announced the $1.8 billion electricity plant, and it seems that it’s construction is still at least a year away, according to Tittel.

“Right now where it stands is that opposition keeps growing, 49 towns in Bergen County have passed resolutions against it, we have support from Assemblyman (D) Clinton Calabrese and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg in opposition to it,” he added.

“And the plant’s officials are now coming to the Department of Environmental Protection for their air permits, which may take about a year to get that application approved, and that’s why we believe that we have to have a moratorium in place because right now based on the current weak rules of the DEP they could not turn down the power plant based on the air permits even though it’s going to be the largest source of pollution maybe in all of New Jersey.”

Spokesmen for the governor’s office and the NBLG, respectively, did not immediately return emails seeking comment this morning.