Forum in Kearny raises awareness of dangers of planned NJ Transit gas-burning power plant

Public officials, health experts, local residents and environmentalists gathered recently to discuss the issue

Amid the ongoing climate crisis, environmental activism is undoubtedly on the rise in Hudson County, and the battle against the planned NJ Transit power plant in Kearny continues.

Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos joined public health experts, local residents and environmentalists at a forum on Monday evening, November 14 to raise awareness about the dangers of building a new methane gas-burning power plant in South Kearny.

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The forum, held at the Kearny Public Library and organized by members of the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition, gave speakers a chance to discuss the project’s risks to residents’ health and the environment throughout Hudson County and the clean energy alternatives that would provide a better solution.

“We are concerned about the direction of NJ Transit’s gas plant proposal for our town and the impact of more fossil fuel pollution on not just on our community, but on the many municipalities surrounding NJ Transit’s project in this region already overburdened by environmental and health stressors,” said Santos. “While we need to build infrastructure that is resilient to a changing climate, we need to figure out how to do it in a way that won’t negatively impact the health, environment, and quality of life for those in this region.”

The meeting was part of an ongoing advocacy campaign calling on Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to reject a toxic gas-burning power plant. For nearly two years, activists across New Jersey have rallied, marched, lobbied, wrote letters, and spoke out at public meetings against the proposal.

In Hudson County, municipalities that passed a resolution against the NJ Transit proposal included: Hoboken, Jersey City, North Bergen, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York. The local activism also included a protest by the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition on both land and kayak.

In the fall of 2020, Governor Murphy directed NJ Transit to redesign the “Transitgrid” project to maximize the use of renewable energy. However, the updated Request for Proposals (RFP) from NJ Transit suggests that they still intend to build a massive new fossil fuel power plant in the Meadowlands.

“Despite direction from Governor Murphy to redesign the Transitgrid project to maximize renewable energy, which came after widespread opposition from 19 North Jersey municipalities and 14 state legislators and thousands of New Jersey residents, NJ Transit is still leaving the door wide open to dirty energy,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey Director of Food and Water Watch.

“Without decisive action now, the governor will be allowing NJ Transit to sink over $500 million dollars into an ill-conceived project that will foul the air and environment in one of the most pollution overburdened regions of the country,” Smith said. “If Governor Murphy is serious about his clean energy and climate commitments, he must order NJ Transit to redesign the ‘Transitgrid’ project without a massive new fossil fuel power plant.”

At the meeting, two public health experts, Dr. Sarah Evans (PhD, MPH of Mount Sinai) and Dr. Khalil Savary (MD of Rutgers Medical School) spoke about the risks to children’s health from fossil fuels and industrial pollution.

“Air pollutants emitted by gas-fired power plants are linked to a myriad of health effects including asthma, heart disease, cancer, impaired brain development, premature birth, and others,” said Evans. “Construction of this plant would be detrimental to the health of residents of Kearny as well neighboring towns, all of which are considered overburdened under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law.”

In addition to their work rallying the county against the proposed gas-burning power plant in Kearny, the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands Coalition has also been mobilizing residents against a proposed gas-burning power plant in the Ironbound section of Newark by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission.

Hudson County municipalities who have come out against that plant include: Bayonne, Hoboken, Jersey City, Secaucus, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York. Meanwhile, North Bergen has been petitioned by residents to join the cause, but has been resistant to “jumping on the bandwagon,” according to Mayor Nicholas Sacco.

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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