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Meadowlands Power Plant: Environmentalists Blast Permit Approvals by Murphy Administration (via North Jersey)

The project in North Bergen still needs several key approvals, but opponents say the six permits from the state DEP give it considerable momentum.

Environmentalists criticized the Murphy administration on Monday for issuing a slate of permits for a mammoth gas-fired power plant to be built in the Meadowlands.

The project in North Bergen still needs several key approvals from New Jersey, New York and federal regulators, but opponents say the six permits issued last week by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection give the project considerable momentum. 

“This is the opposite of everything the Meadowlands needs right now,” said Bill Sheehan, director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper advocacy group. “I’m really shocked that they actually issued these.”

New Jersey would not get any power from the plant. Plans call for electricity to be transported via underground cable to Con Edison’s plant on Manhattan’s west side. The power would flow to a grid to which New Jersey does not have access. 

A march protesting the power plant is scheduled in nearby Ridgefield Park on Tuesday night. It begins at 5:30 p.m. at 264 Main St. and ends at Railroad Station Plaza. 

Approving the $1.5 billion North Bergen Liberty Generating plant would seem to go against the cornerstone of Gov. Phil Murphy’s environmental agenda to reduce greenhouse gases. He has set an ambitious goal for new Jersey to get all of its power from wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable methods by 2050. 

Mahen Gunaratna, a spokesman for Murphy, said the power plant is far from a done deal and still needs to be evaluated for other key permits.

“The recently issued permits from DEP for the possible new Meadowlands facility are the just first step in a long permitting process that includes many opportunities for public input,” he said in a statement.

“We thought based on his campaign promise that New Jersey would be heading in a different direction with its energy future,” said Matt Smith, a Bergen County organizer for the advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “Why would you issue any permits for this when your goal is to reduce greenhouse gases? But it shows there are real legs to the project.”

How much of the greenhouse gases would be emitted from the plant is not yet known, according to Diamond Generating Corp., the plant’s Los Angeles-based developer, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Mitsubishi.

But it would generate as much as 1,200 megawatts of electricity — the same amount as PSEG’s Bergen Generating Station in nearby Ridgefield, which emitted more than 2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in 2016, ranking it fifth in New Jersey. 

“This power plant is incompatible with the Murphy administration’s goals of moving towards a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The solution for the region to move off fossil fuels is to invest in energy efficiency and move towards clean, renewable energy, not building fossil-fuel power plants that will pollute our air for another generation.”

North Bergen officials support the project because it could bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue to the town. They have said that there would be no direct effect on residents because of its location on a 15-acre site in an industrial section of town off Tonnelle Avenue. 

“We believe that the project represents a tremendous opportunity to ensure that property taxes in North Bergen remain stable far into the future while creating hundreds of union construction jobs, and that the project does not pose any risk to residents of North Bergen, Ridgefield or any other surrounding community,” said Phil Swibinski, a North Bergen spokesman. “The ultimate decision lies with the regulatory agencies who are tasked with evaluating the project.”  

Environmentalists say the plant would contribute to sea level rise globally and would make flooding worse locally. The Ridgefield Borough Council last month passed a nine-page resolution opposing the plant, citing adverse effects that it could have on the health of residents. 

They have said the millions of tons of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases produced by the plant would be felt throughout the 14-town Meadowlands region, which experiences chronic flooding and suffered tens of millions of dollars in damage after a 12-foot storm surge propelled by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. 

The plant would employ an estimated 2,200 construction workers and is supported by several labor unions. It would employ 33 full-time workers after it is built, according to documents submitted to regulators.

The DEP issued freshwater wetlands, flood hazard area and waterfront permits on June 26. Construction is scheduled for 2019 but would not begin until all permits are acquired, said Brian Hague, a spokesman for the project. “This is a positive first step in our goal to build one of the cleanest, safest electric-generating facilities in the region,” he said. 

Sheehan said he will try to formally appeal the permits through the DEP or sue the agency. 

Don Torino, president of Bergen County Audubon, said he hopes the DEP will stop at those permits.

“First, I think it’s just bad that the permits were issued so fast,” said Torino, a lifelong Meadowlands resident. “But I think what we all have to watch is what will happen to the air quality and water quality permits. Those studies as far as I know are not there yet. Abuse to the Meadowlands will never be tolerated. If I were a resident of the area, I would be deeply concerned.”

Source: North Jersey