Members of several environmental organizations who orchestrated the North Jersey Climate Strike made their way to Newark today to hold a demonstration in front of NJ Transit’s headquarters to protest several initiatives including the Kearny power plant.
By Mike Montemarano/Hudson County View
Representatives from Food and Water Watch and New Jersey Sierra Club joined student protestors from Rutgers University- Newark, along with several high school students spanning from in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Camden Counties.
The large group pointed to dismal scientific projections of extreme weather events, billions of dollars worth of damage to public infrastructure, and possible irreversible effects on human and ecological health.
Among other local issues, such as the lead crisis in Newark, they were there to voice dissent about NJ Transit’s proposed microgrid resiliency program due to the fact that it would be powered by fracked natural gas.
“We believe these trains could and should be powered by renewable energy in a combination of wind, solar and hydro,” NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.
“We’re also calling on the governor to put resources in place to get the lead out of pipes in Newark, Jersey City, and other places in the state. We’ve been calling on the governor to issue a moratorium on all proposed fossil fuel projects in New Jersey. If all of the proposals are approved, New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions would increase by over a third.”
The NJ Transit program, spurred by the debilitating impact Superstorm Sandy had on rail service, proposes that the agency construct an autonomous power grid capable of staying online independently of the region’s electrical infrastructure.
The first public hearings on the project were held in June.
It aims to keep rail lines and signal systems on the Northeast Corridor, NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex Lines, and the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail operational even if weather-related regional blackouts occur.
These systems would be powered by a 100-plus megawatt natural gas plant proposed for construction on the Kopper’s Koke peninsula in Kearny on an industrial tract currently owned by the Hudson County Improvement Authority.
The HCIA has been seeking to offload the once-contaminated land to a buyer for years, and despite a few proposals, it hasn’t seen avail.
NJ Transit has over $420 million in grants from the Federal Transportation Authority, as well as $15 million in grants from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund at its disposal to construct the microgrid.
The microgrid resiliency program is currently undergoing a DEP-conducted environmental impact survey, which will be followed by several other permitting phases conducted by state and federal agencies.
Today’s demonstration came on the heels of a recent noteworthy decision affecting North Bergen which environmental groups viewed as a win.
On October 9th, Gov. Phil Murphy came out against the proposed $1.8 billion North Bergen Liberty Generating power plant, after years of deferring to the DEP approvals process, noting that he was “unequivocally opposed” to the project’s construction on an edition of WNYC’s “Ask the Governor.”
Minutes after Murphy made his opinion known, North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that he and other local officials would be seeking a new use for the NBLG property, despite the lost opportunity for substantial tax revenue and local job creation.
With over a dozen fossil fuel proposals still on the docket, Food and Water Watch organizer Matt Smith said that he and other environmental groups will continue demonstrating and lobbying until state legislation definitively halts new fossil fuel construction.
“We’re optimistic about the power of our movement,” Smith said.
“We’ve proven that when we come together with facts to educate our communities and hold officials accountable, we can stop one of the wealthiest industries in the world, the fossil fuel industry, from risking the future of these young people here today.”
“This proposal isn’t coming from a private company, it’s from Murphy’s own agency. We’re calling on him to intervene.”
Mike Montemarano can be reached at MonteHCV@gmail.com