The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in North Jersey is pulling the plug on its controversial plans for a gas-fired plant for a sewage treatment facility in Newark, citing opposition from environmentalists.
Plans had been underway since Superstorm Sandy in 2012 knocked off power to the facilities, which meant raw sewage was not being processed and instead overflowed into the nearby Passaic River and New York Harbor.
PSE&G’s own operations were taken offline by the storm for nearly 72 hours. The $600 million power plant, done in collaboration with the federal government, was meant to provide back-up power to the sewage treatment facility. Only one more permit approval was needed before the project could go ahead.
Despite the project’s advanced stage in its permitting process, PVSC said it would look at a back-up plan with renewable energy instead of natural gas.
Environmentalists contend that area residents in the Ironbound neighborhood in Newark have been harmed by decades of air and water pollution.
Matt Smith, New Jersey director for Food & Water Watch, said that any such “dirty energy proposal” needs to be scrapped and replaced with clean energy projects that would “protect and promote public health for Newark residents and communities down-wind from the proposed facility.”
“Anything that uses fracked gas should be scrapped, full stop,” reads a May statement from Cynthia Mellon, co-chair of the Newark Environmental Commission. “Our pollution-burdened city and neighborhoods are already at the limit of what human health can withstand.
PVSC said it would instead explore an alternative form of energy generation for the site’s back-up plant.
“Climate change is upon us. The time to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and switch to renewable sources of energy, to the extent we can, is right now,” reads a June 10 announcement. “PVSC must, however, maintain its ability to operate in the face of these challenges.”
PVSC will continue to hold open forums over the next 60 days so that environmentalists and area residents can voice their concerns for any future proposal. Those public forums would include significant collaboration with several community organizations, including the city itself, the activist Ironbound Community Corp., and Newark DIG.
PSVC also said it’ll look at where in its sewage operations they could cut carbon emissions.