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Court Rules DEP Can Revise Permit for Newark Natural Gas Plant

Environmental and community groups fail in bid to require Newark Energy Center to file for new permit

newark energy center
Newark Energy Center

A state appeal courts has rejected a challenge by a community and environmental organization to a new air permit for five-year old natural-gas plant in Newark.

In a 15-page decision, the court on Friday affirmed the state Department of Environmental Protection’s approval of a significant change in the permit held by the Newark Energy Center.

The Ironbound Community Corp. and the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance challenged the permit, arguing the plant should have been required to file public emergency-response and notification plans prior to obtaining it.

The 655-megawatt gas plant opened in 2012, the first of a handful of new gas facilities that have begun operating in New Jersey in the past few years as part of a trend that has seen natural gas emerge to rival nuclear energy in supplying the state’s power needs.

The court case stemmed from the plant’s significant modification of its air permit involving its increased use of sulfuric acid and other chemicals in reused water in the plant’s cooling tower.

According to the DEP, the increased use of the chemicals would not increase the emissions from the plant. The state agency issued the modified permit for the facility in August 2015.

In its decision, the court found the modified air permit maintained allowable emission limits and required additional monitoring and record keeping to ensure compliance.

In addition, the court rejected the appellants’ arguments that the permit also required the agency to determine if the plant was in compliance with other environmental laws dealing with spills and state air-control requirements.

“Simply stated, while separate, independent federal and state laws may impose public emergency-response and notification planning requirements upon industrial facilities such as NEC,” according to the court opinion, “they did not govern the DEP’s decision to approve NEC’s application to modify its permit.’’

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