Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

‘Enough pollution’ in minority area eyed for power plant

- By Wayne Parry

Residents of low-income communitie­s in New Jersey that would get a second gas-fired power plant nearby are urging the governor to halt the project. They say it flies in the face of an environmen­tal justice law he signed with great fanfare over two years ago but which has yet to take full effect.

Competitiv­e Power Ventures wants to build the second plant beside one it already operates in the Keasbey section of Woodbridge, about 22 miles south of Newark. The company says the expansion is needed because of growing demand for energy, pitching it as a reliable backup source for solar and wind energy when those types of power are not available.

But residents of the mostly minority neighborho­od of Keasbey, as well as surroundin­g low-income and minority towns, say the second plant will pump even more pollution into an area that already suffers disproport­ionately from it.

They say their communitie­s are precisely the types of places that are supposed to be protected by the law Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed in 2020, calling it the toughest environmen­tal justice law in the nation. The measure is designed to ensure lowincome and minority communitie­s that are already overburden­ed with pollution are not forced to accept additional sources of it.

“We have enough pollution here,” said Jean Roy, an asthma sufferer from Woodbridge. He noted that the state’s two largest highways — the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway — run through Woodbridge, which is already highly industrial­ized.

“Don’t add more,” he said. “It would be nice to see the plant built in some of the more affluent and pretty areas.”

The governor’s office did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

On Tuesday evening, the company made an online

presentati­on on the proposed plant followed by a public comment period.

Residents lambasted the state, saying they’re angry the environmen­tal justice law still has not taken full effect. They voiced suspicion that this and other proposed power plants will be approved before the new rules take hold in April.

Chris Nowell of the environmen­tal group Food & Water Watch said Murphy should not “allow this plant

to beat the buzzer by one month.” If that happens, he asked, “Do you think we would have any faith in the DEP left at all?”

Failing grade

The American Lung Associatio­n gives Middlesex County, which includes Woodbridge, a grade of “F” for ground-level ozone pollution.

Numerous speakers from Woodbridge and neighborin­g communitie­s told of their children’s struggles with asthma and other ailments, which they attribute to growing up in a polluted industrial area.

James Dabrowski, secretary of the NAACP chapter in the neighborin­g city of Perth Amboy, recalled a terrifying incident with his 1-year-old son.

“We had to rush him to the hospital in an ambulance because he couldn’t breathe,” he said. “CPV already has one massive fossil fuel plant in Keasbey spewing out toxins. The last thing we need is another power plant right next to it.”

Daniel Heyden of nearby Metuchen said he lives just over two miles from the existing CPV plant, and his 2-year-old son also had to be hospitaliz­ed in intensive care with an extreme form of asthma. He now must take three different medicines a day.

CPV, which is based in Silver Spring, Md., says its proposed second plant “will be one of the most efficient and lowest emitting generation facilities of its kind” as it provides enough electricit­y to power 600,000 homes and businesses. The company says its new plant will allow the closure of older, less efficient and more polluting facilities.

During Tuesday night’s online presentati­on, CPV said the greenhouse gas emissions from the new plant would be “at the lowest level achievable in the U.S. from a natural gasfired electric generating station.”

It still needs over a halfdozen environmen­tal permits from state and federal authoritie­s.

Only a tiny handful of speakers supported the project, including a retired union worker and a current union official praising the jobs it would create.

But most speakers said the health consequenc­es of another power plant in the area would far outweigh any economic benefits.

“Your jobs mean nothing to me,” said Brian Russo, an environmen­talist from northern New Jersey who used to work in the Woodbridge area. “There will be no jobs on a dead planet.”

 ?? WAYNE PARRY - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? The CPV power plant in Woodbridge, N.J., on Monday. The company’s plan to a second gas-fired power plant next to the existing one is being opposed by residents of the communitie­s around the plant.
WAYNE PARRY - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS The CPV power plant in Woodbridge, N.J., on Monday. The company’s plan to a second gas-fired power plant next to the existing one is being opposed by residents of the communitie­s around the plant.

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