Students and environmental activists rallied in Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus Monday morning to protest the building of a natural gas power plant in Kearny, with some calling on Gov. Phil Murphy (D) to take a stance on the issue.
Students, residents and environmental activists hold a rally at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus to protest a NJ Transit plan to build a natural gas power plant in Kearny.
Posted by Hudson County View on Monday, August 24, 2020
By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View
The activists, speaking across the river from the plant’s location on the former Kopper’s Coke peninsula in Kearny, were sharply critical of Murphy.
He has remained silent amid calls to shut the project down, and has not stood by his own calls to transition the state away from fossil fuels, some of the speakers asserted.
“Gov. Murphy claims to be fighting for the environment and against climate change but has yet to take any action against this power plant,” Logan Miller, a 16-year-old Jersey City resident said at the rally today.
“He has the power to stop this project right now, yet he does nothing.”
The plant, a 140-megawatt generator, would be part of the NJ TransitGrid Traction Power System, a more than $500 million project that would provide electricity to Amtrak, the Morris and Essex lines of NJ Transit’s commuter rails – as well as the Hudson-Bergen light rail.
The projects aim is to protect against shutdowns that occurred during Superstorm Sandy. It is made up of state and federal monies, with 75 percent of its budget coming from federal disaster relief funds.
Still, more than a dozen organizations in the state have criticized the proposal, calling it a step in the wrong direction to transition the state’s energy grid away from fossil fuels.
“There’s no reason to build another piece of fossil fuel infrastructure in New Jersey, now now and not ever again,” state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) said in a statement provided to the protesters today.
Murphy in 2018 signed an executive order directing the development of an updated Energy Master Plan “for the state to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”
And in November of last year, Murphy, alongside former Vice President Al Gore, signed an executive order that more than doubled the state’s offshore wind electricity generation goal by 2035.
But activists today said Murphy’s rhetoric around the impending climate crisis “is really just more hot air unless its backed up by action,” according to New Jersey Food and Water Watch Director Matt Smith.
“We’ve sent many letters … and thus far Murphy has remained silent, so we think there is some reason, politically, why he is failing to come out because it’s such an easy decision.”
For their part, activists have proposed replacing the plant with a microgrid based on renewable energy. They say they’ve reached out unsuccessfully to Murphy’s office, NJ Transit and the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“We’re not in close dialogue,” Smith said.
NJ Transit officials have said that renewable energy would not be feasible for the location and the costs they currently have pegged.
A spokesperson for Murphy’s office, Christine Lee, said that the power plan concept “originated as a Christie era project.”
“The Murphy administration is committed to a process that allows for the resiliency needs of NJ Transit while also prioritizing green technology that is in line with the values of the administration,” she continued.
NJ Transit plans to begin construction on the plant in 2021 and is expected to take four years to complete.
More than three dozen activists on Monday took kayaks across the river to the proposed site in protest, while others marched to the Secaucus train station.
Despite the alleged lack of dialogue, activists today remained committed to holding Murphy accountable.
“We’ve learned that Gov. Murphy isn’t going to fulfill the promises he made we make him, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Sam DiFalco, another representative from Food and Water Watch.
“Murphy didn’t just have an ‘epiphany’ when he realized the North Bergen power plant was a bad idea for New Jersey, he did so because many of you and your neighbors stood up and fought back.”
Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_