On April 5, the Newark City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) plans for a new fracked gas power plant in Newark, and called on Governor Murphy to direct the agency to shift to a renewable energy alternative.
“I thank my colleagues for supporting the resolution that I introduced. For too long our community has been taken advantage of, and literally been dumped on when it comes to matters of environmental Justice and public health. Enough is enough!” said East Ward Councilmember Michael Silva. “As a cancer survivor and an ironbound resident for almost 50 years now, this issue is close to my heart and I will work with and fight for all our residents and stakeholders to make it clear: OUR HEALTH IS NOT FOR SALE!”
Newark City Council’s opposition comes just one week after the Essex County Commissioners also unanimously voted to adopt a resolution on the same. Both resolutions follow a recent letter from the 29th Legislative delegation, made up of Senate Majority Leader Theresa Ruiz, and Assemblymembers Eliana Pintor-Marin and Shanique Speight, to Governor Murphy detailing their strong opposition to the PVSC gas plant. And in February, over 20 other members of the legislature, along with Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, sent a similar letter opposing the direction of the project.
“Newark’s united! Our City Council, Mayor, County Commissioners and state legislators are all coming out, supporting residents, and we cannot afford any new industrial smokestacks like PVSC’s dirty gas plant. The certainty of further poisoning our lungs is an unacceptable trade off to potentially reducing flooding. There are better options out there for our lungs, jobs, climate and Newark Bay,” said Kim Gaddy, the founder of Newark’s South Ward Environmental Alliance and Clean Water Action National Environmental Justice Director. “Governor Murphy and PVSC must follow the locals’ lead and reject a 4th gas plant in the Ironbound.”
“It is indeed a commendable act on the part of both the Newark City Council and the Essex County Commissioners to oppose the proposed PVSC fracked gas plant. It sends a message that the Commissioners are aware that pollution from the plant would not only add to unsafe levels Newark residents are bombarded with every second, but that these harmful pollutants would spread to other cities throughout New Jersey and beyond,” said Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds, Newark Environmental Commission and Weequahic Park Association, Executive Director. “It also sends a message that these polluting industries need to commit to renewable energy, if they’re really concerned about the health of future generations, climate change mitigation and the quality of life of Newark residents and those of other municipalities.”
The Newark City Council joins a growing coalition of elected leaders, residents and advocates who have commented at public hearings, written letters, marched, rallied, and spoken out in the media against the gas plant for the past two years. Together they are demanding immediate action to prevent this grave environmental injustice looming over Newark and the Ironbound community and calling on Governor Murphy to work with PVSC to redesign their resiliency project without bringing a fourth gas plant to Newark.
“The Ironbound Community Corp.’s Environmental Justice team is grateful to have community members throughout Newark and beyond rally in support of Environmental Justice in our community,” said JV Valladolid, Frontline Communications with the Ironbound Community Corporation. “The Newark City Council’s opposition to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s current proposal to bring a 4th fossil power plant to our city is a solid demonstration of community-driven decision-making and support.”
The environmental justice review of PVSC’s proposed methane gas burning power plant is complete and is currently before the DEP for their review. The 2020 signing of the environmental justice law was supposed to mark the beginning of the end of the disproportionate siting of major polluting facilities in EJ communities and the myriad public health harms they bring. Though the law was signed two and a half years ago and the Murphy Administration promised to have rules in place by November 2021 so the law could go into effect, the rulemaking process is yet to be complete and polluters continue to move ahead with new polluting projects in overburdened communities.
“Without intervention from Governor Murphy, PVSC could vote to begin construction on their dirty gas plant proposal in the coming weeks,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Sam DiFalco. “The Governor has consistently made big promises to fight climate change and protect environmental justice communities, yet without action to stop new fossil fuel plants proposed in overburdened communities like Newark, his words mean nothing. If he wants to live up to the commitments he made to Newark where he signed the environmental justice law back in 2020 then he will stop PVSC from proceeding with this gas plant.”