Proposed generating plant in the Meadowlands sparks conflict

Environmentalists oppose the North Bergen Liberty Generating Plant. A subsidiary of Mitsubishi wants to build the fracked gas-fired plant in New Jersey and have its electricity power Manhattan. Critics say that’s incompatible with candidate and Gov. Phil Murphy’s pledge.

“I remain and we remain committed to a new energy master plan, one that we have not had in a long time in this state that would see our state achieve 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050,” Murphy said last December.

Environmentalists feel empowered by the governor’s words and on Tuesday made a big demand of the governor.

“Today we’re calling on Gov. Murphy to sign an executive order putting a moratorium on all new power plants that are from fossil fuels,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Murphy replied to the plan on Tuesday, saying, “I always scratch my head with something that is being done here that some other state will benefit from, but beyond that I don’t an opinion.”

“All of these markers that are being laid down by our new governor, this project flies in the face of that. He might as well not have opened his mouth in Trenton, he might as well not have hired anybody for the DEP because these people will tell you that this is the best deal we can get, and it’s not,” said Bill Sheehan, executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper.

Opponents say they’re 45 groups strong and ran through a slew of health and environmental concerns about the project.

“First and foremost, the air pollution,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Matt Smith. “The plant would release tremendous amounts of nitrous oxide and lead to creation of ground-level ozone, both of which have been linked to lung and heart disease as well as childhood asthma rates.”

“We want to move forward, not backward and fossil fuels are backwards.” said Bill Brennan with Franciscan Response to Fracking.

“The Meadowlands, as most folks know, is one of the great ecological comeback stories in the nation,” said Greg Remaud, deputy director of NY/NJ Baykeeper.

In a statement, North Bergen Liberty wrote, “Building an electric power plant and protecting the environment need not be mutually exclusive. NBLG believed that older, inefficient power plants must be replaced by the latest, most efficient, and environmentally advanced electric generating facilities, which is what we are proposing to build in a heavy industrial area of North Bergen Township. Our facility would displace less efficient and higher emitting forms of electric generation.”

Environmentalists say solar is the way to go. To that, North Bergen Liberty says “… constructing a solar facility capable of a generating capacity equal to the NBLG plant would require a land area six to ten times the size of Central Park. Of course, there is no room anywhere in the region to build such a facility without destroying precious open space or clear-cutting thousands of trees.”

The site is now used for construction and demolition waste. It has a lengthy process, the DEP says, to get a number of permits to allow a generating plant to be built.

Environmentalists say they have the energy to fight it each step of the way, and if they can’t negotiate an end to the project, then they’ll litigate.

“Any democrat who facilitates the construction of this will become a toxic waste site himself or herself,” said Brennan.

Environmentalists say they’re eager to see what the governor will do in what could be the first test of his quest for clean, renewable energy.