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Opponents of proposed power plant in Newark mobilize in Hudson County

Community members and activists have asked local officials to oppose the PVSC's proposed gas-fired power plant

The West New York Board of Commissioners met via Zoom on March 9.

Calls are again ringing out for the governing body of West New York to consider passing a resolution that would condemn a proposed gas-fired power plant in Newark in favor of a renewable energy alternative. And in Weehawken, those calls have been successful, as the Township Council passed a similar resolution.

The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) is proposing to construct a gas-fired power plant in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark. The planned Standby Power Generation Facility was proposed as part of a resiliency project in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to provide back-up power to the facility.

Residents and activists have been rallying municipal governments to oppose the plant, as they did with the proposed NJ TransitGrid fracked-gas power plant in Kearny. Many were concerned that the plant would likely be used more than just in a back-up scenario, adding to pollution in the surrounding area.

Last June, the PVSC announced that it plans to reevaluate its current proposal for the power plant at its sewage treatment facility in Newark after community members and environmental activists from across the region opposed the plan in favor of renewable energy.

Regardless of the announcement, activists are keeping the pressure on PVSC. In Hudson County, Hoboken and Jersey City have passed a similar resolution against the proposed power plant, even after the announcement in June. North Bergen is still weighing the measure.

And West New York could be next. Resident Brielle Jeffries proposed the resolution to the West New York Board of Commissioners at its September meeting. At the time, Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez said he was in touch with West New York’s Environmental Coordinator Rosemarie Suarez regarding the issue and asked for a conversation offline from the virtual meeting.

Resident seeks resolution

That was in September of 2021. No resolution has been passed in the months since the first discussion. Jeffries again addressed the board at its March 9 meeting, asking them to pass a resolution to oppose the plant in favor of a renewable energy solution.

“I’ve been on here before but I wanted to bring up again the issue of the proposed power plant that is going to be built in Newark by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission,” Jeffries said. “This has been proposed for a while now and the votes have been postponed due to some of the arguments against it. Of course, Newark is already a very polluted area, and we want keep this area safe as possible to the residents around there. So again, I’m asking that West New York pass a resolution against that proposed power plant. Instead,  the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission can very easily propose a clean energy power plant.” 

Jeffries encouraged West New York to join the municipalities already against it.

“So far, Jersey City, Hoboken, Kearny, Maplewood, Livingston, and Alpine have passed resolutions opposing the project,” Jeffries said. “I think it would be great if West New York did as well. We already have a templated resolution that West New York can just place its name on and show support for this. I’ve sent a few emails and I did try to get in touch with Rose as well, but it would be great if we can get this on the agenda for next town meeting.” 

Rodriguez said the town will look at the resolution.

“Thank you Brielle, we will be sure to take a look at that,” Rodriguez said. “Thank you for sharing.” 

A rendering of the proposed power plant in Newark.

Weehawken too?

In Weehawken, the township council passed a resolution opposing the proposed power plant.

William McClelland, of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition and the Food and Water Watch first addressed the Weehawken Township Council about the issue at its Feb. 23 meeting.

“They are determined to use a gas-fired power plant. Our organization is opposing this construction because it will contribute to the already enormous amount of pollution in this area of New Jersey,” McClelland said. “The Ironbound section of Newark has been bombarded with pollution over the years.”

In response, Turner was on board, noting the township had opposed similar situations in the past: “We did the same thing with the New Jersey Transit facility they were going to build in Kearny.”

Turner instructed McClelland to forward the resolution to the Township Clerk’s Office to revisit the issue on March 9, the next council meeting. At that meeting, the council unanimously voted to approve a resolution expressing their opposition to the PVSC’s proposed fossil fuel power plant in the Ironbound section of Newark.

At the March meeting, Turner added: “During Sandy, the Passaic Valley system shut down. It almost overflowed. And the same thing with our plant, the North Hudson sewer plant. And when it goes down, they both go down for many months. So everybody is trying to figure out how to make sure that doesn’t happen. Passaic Valley’s proposing a $150 million dollar fossil fuel back-up power plant. The fear is that it will be used more regularly in an area that’s already polluted. So they’re suggesting renewable energy-based hybrid micro-grids.” 

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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