North Bergen mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein is targeting Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in an effort to stop the construction of a $1.8 billion power plant that would provide electricity to over 1 million homes in New York City.
Wainstein, through a Mercer County Superior Court lawsuit filed by his attorney Mario Blanch on Monday, is alleging that the $1.8 billion endeavor would violate the civil rights of North Bergen residents, also citing an executive order issued by Murphy a year ago.
“This action cites Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order 23, which states, in his own words, ‘low-income communities and communities of color have been exposed to disproportionately high and unacceptably dangerous levels of water, air and soil pollution,” he said during a press conference at his headquarters last night.
“With accompanying potential of increased public health impacts, it is clear that the people or North Bergen are being discriminated.”
While Wainstein has spoken out against the power plant for months, he made his position official about two weeks ago and the lawsuit marks the first official action anyone has taken to halt it’s progress.
When asked about the timing of the suit, which also names the Township of North Bergen and Mayor Nick Sacco, the challenger said that he felt the project was gaining momentum and he felt that he had a significant voice in the matter.
“It’s moving forward, it’s gaining momentum, and I’ve expressed my opinions many, many months ago … I thought this was a time that was appropriate. I think that I have a voice, a very strong voice at this time and I really do not want this power plant in North Bergen, the people of North Bergen don’t want this power plant.”
The suit also claims that Murphy, who endorsed Sacco for re-election, is playing politics and moving the project along behind the scenes.
After the presser concluded, Wainstein and a few dozen supporters marched about 20 blocks from his campaign headquarters to Town Hall, chanting “no power plant” intermittently.
Although Murphy could certainly voice his opinion on the project, he’s previously said it is following all the normal protocols, the state Department of Environmental Protection is the agency that will ultimately be making the calls.
Back in June, the DEP was granted their first land use approval, which “authorizes the construction of a gas turbine combined cycle electric generating station,” according to the description of authorized activities from the agency.
Furthermore, the presser occurred on the same day that the state Board of Public Utilities approved a $300 million a year nuclear subsidy agreement with PSE&G’s three power plants in South Jersey, as NJ Spotlight reported.
Meanwhile, Sacco campaign spokeswoman Wendy Martinez said that the narrative presented in the lawsuit is “completely false.”
“Everything that Lying Larry says is completely false. This proposed project has never received any tax abatement or any kind of permits from North Bergen and is being reviewed by the State Department of Environmental Protection,” she said.
“If the DEP says it is safe and approves it, the Township will demand appropriate financial compensation. If the DEP says it is not safe, it will never be built.”
Several representatives from Murphy’s office did not return emails seeking comment.