Rain cancels rally in Jersey City, but opposition to NJ Transit power plant in Kearny wages on

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While a big rain storm cancelled a planned Jersey City rally, it couldn’t dampen the mood among environmental groups and elected officials who planned to voice their opposition to NJ Transit’s proposed 140-megawatt, gas-powered power plant in Kearny.

Photo courtesy of NJ Transit.

By Marc Bussanich/Hudson County View

Food and Water Watch NJ and the New Jersey Sierra Club planned a rally at Leonard Gordon Park with at least four Jersey City council members, since the site overlooks Koppers Koke Peninsula – the site of the proposed plant – but the weather forced the gathering onto Zoom.

Activists and attendees who arrived at the park ran back to their cars when the rain started to join the virtual event.

Matt Smith, the state director for FWW, said in an interview that the proposed project is, from a climate change perspective, a terrible idea because the plant is expected to generate upwards of 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually once it goes online.

“Right now in New Jersey, we get a higher percentage [of energy] from renewables: 21 percent of our energy now has to come from renewable energy, and between that and nuclear, and some other carbon-free sources, there is no way that NJ Transit can claim that building a new gas-powered plant to operate 24/7 would be good for air quality,” Smith argued.

He also noted that the proposed gas-powered plant “flies in the face” of Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) Energy Master Plan that he signed into law earlier this year to power the state’s entire energy infrastructure with clean energy sources by 2050.

The plan outlines a number of strategies to get to that goal in 30 years, such as reducing energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector.

The Kearny project received an approximately $415 million federal grant, with other costs to be determined by NJ Transit.

According to NJ Transit, the project, which will also include the construction of new substations in Kearny and Hoboken, as well as electrical lines connecting the plant to the railway corridor, is necessary to maintain and enhance mobility and regional security in the event of power outages and other emergency situations.

Essentially, he and the other environmental groups feel that NJ Transit can construct a wide array of solar panels above and along the rail corridor, as well as on the vast number of properties that NJ Transit owns, such as their train stations and rail yards.

The energy produced from all those panels at different locations would then feed into a distributed network.

“They can combine that solar with battery storage to make it resilient, so that when the sun isn’t shining they’ll still have back-up power on-demand through a distributed battery network, which is the direction the state is going in anyway,” noted Smith.

At their June 17 meeting, the Hoboken City Council approved a resolution to oppose the Kearny project.

In response to the vote, an NJ Transit spokeswoman said that the they would continue to “draw on the market for ideas through an RFP process that will seek to maximize the use of renewable and clean energy technologies.”

Smith though said he’s not buying it after looking through the request for proposals in question.

“It’s a sham. We have looked through the RFP and it is designed specifically to eliminate renewable energy companies from bidding … it is geared, almost exclusively, toward fossil fuel companies.”

Ward E Councilman James Solomon, one of Jersey City’s electeds who spoke against the endeavor, told HCV that the proposed project is misguided.

“Downtown Jersey City will not survive climate change with middle of the road actions. We must keep fossil fuels in the ground. A new gas power plant keeps us tethered to unsustainable fossil fuels for another 30-50 years. That’s why I oppose the new plant.”

NJ Transit did not return an email seeking comment.

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