Environmental Justice Groups and Local Environmental Leaders Demand Significant Improvements to New Jersey’s Draft Energy Master Plan
Newark, NJ – Members of the Environmental Justice (EJ) community, community leaders, youth, supportive elected officials and progressive advocates called on the Murphy Administration to make major strengthening changes to NJ's Draft 2019 Energy Master Plan (EMP). They spoke at a press conference held immediately before North Jersey’s only public hearing of the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU), and subsequently testified at the afternoon and evening session at Seton Hall Law School in Newark.
While supporting portions of the EMP, members of the EJ and environmental communities argued that details were largely lacking and important policies and mandates missing.
Members of the EJ community demanded mandatory reductions in air pollution emissions in EJ communities, including from power plants located in, or that significantly impact, these communities. They also argued for mandatory reductions in transportation related air pollution in EJ communities, ensuring access to renewable energy and energy efficiency in EJ communities and meaningful participation by these communities in energy related decisions that affect them.
“The Board of Public Utilities needs to develop a more robust and publicly accessible process for weighing in on the EMP and other critical energy matters,” stated Melissa Miles, Environmental Justice Manager, Ironbound Community Corporation. “Equity means that the BPU works actively to create bridges that allow people living, learning and working in areas most impacted by energy infrastructure to speak for themselves early and often, and in a way where their voices hold real weight. Hearings should not be the only point of intersection for the public.”
Grassroots environmental leaders engaged in fighting pipelines and other fossil-fuel infrastructure also attended the event and called for a state-wide moratorium on all of NJ’s 14 proposed fossil fuel projects (i.e. power plants, pipelines, compressor stations and LNG terminal).
EJ advocates and allies rallied around policy recommendations that would significantly improve the EMP from an EJ perspective. They included:
1) Requiring mandatory reductions in air pollution emissions from power plants located in, or that significantly impact, EJ communities. In addition to fighting climate change by reducing GHG emissions, this policy would improve the health of EJ community residents by decreasing emissions of locally harmful co-pollutants that can contribute to the disproportionate amount of pollution often found in these communities.
2) Ensuring access to renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) in EJ communities. Co-benefits of RE and EE utilization should include pathways to ownership of community systems, as well as educational, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in EJ communities.
3) Providing truly meaningful participation of EJ and community residents and groups in the development and implementation of energy policy – from energy production and consumption, to the physical location of energy infrastructure and the co-benefits each decision yields. At a minimum, meaningful means BPU (and other State) hearings and meetings that are accessible in time, location and language to communities. New Jersey should embrace “community energy planning” which involves local residents, community groups and EJ organizations in energy related decisions that primarily affect their community.
4) Ensuring transportation sector emissions reductions in EJ communities especially from diesel powered vehicles and fleets that frequent these neighborhoods. Ultimately, we need to achieve zero emissions in transportation and other sectors.
5) Prohibiting clean energy, renewable energy credits (RECs), subsidies or net metering for incinerators.
“From ER visits for kids with asthma on bad air days, the storm surge from Super Storm Sandy and more extreme heat this summer to lost job opportunities and a disproportionate share of major polluters like the airport, idling trucks and buses, the garbage incinerator, frack gas and sewage plants, Newark is ground zero for environmental injustice and the climate crisis. These changes to the EMP are critical to getting the job done,” said Kim Gaddy, EJ Organizer, South Ward Environmental Alliance.
“The State needs to enact specific policies to ensure that air pollution emissions reduction connected to the energy sector occur in EJ communities., stated Nicky Sheats, PhD, Esq.,Board Member, NJ Environmental Justice Alliance, and Director, Center for the Urban Environment of the Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State University. “Reduced air pollution in these communities that are frequently overburdened with pollution would improve the health of local residents.”
“Our climate and economic crises are intertwined and can only be solved with bold action with the needs of working families and communities front and center. The draft Energy Master Plan correctly identifies that a large-scale energy transition will create tens of thousands of jobs, but these jobs must also be of quality and family-sustaining, emphasized Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ State Director of 32BJ SEIU. “Many of our union members live in urban neighborhoods with high rates of pollution, asthma and have drinking water poisoned with lead. We need a plan with a more expansive vision and bolder commitments to improve the health and opportunities for everyone in New Jersey.”
At the press conference, environmental grassroots groups fighting power lines, compressor stations, power plants and LNG terminals throughout the state also called for a full moratorium on all 14 gas infrastructure projects. These local environmental advocates have determined that allowing new fossil fuel projects to proceed will dramatically increase GHG emissions, including shorter lived but highly potent methane gas, contrary to NJ statute which mandates an 80% reduction in GHG by 2050 if not sooner. See full analysis at www.empowernewjersey.com
“Jersey City and Hudson County have the worst pollution in the country with F levels. Having a smoke stack that will basically hit us right in the face will make our air worse, cause more asthma attacks, and send more kids to the hospital. Something is really wrong when the state seems be more on the side of the fossil fuel industry and building power plants. This will hurt our community instead of protect it. It could easily be replaced by solar or renewable energy instead,” said Ace Case, Hudson County Activist. “That is why we need a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects in New Jersey. We need to protect our lungs and our environment!”
“What in the world is clean carbon? We need clean air! According to the data there is nothing clean about carbon, period. Instead of finding ways to capture carbon why not try eliminating it,” said Karina Craig, a registered nurse, Army Corps vet, and mother of two young children active in the Don’t Gas the Meadowlands group. “The fact that there’s an executive order to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050 while there are pipelines in the Pinelands being constructed and a power plant in the Meadowlands being proposed is a clear sign that in 2019 the voices of the people are still not being heard. We already have enough causes of pollution. We do not need a power plant in our area. There has to be a better way to protect our kids from harm.”
“I believe it is critical that we get a moratorium put in place to prevent fossil fuel companies from taking advantage of our home in order to make a profit," said Laura Saurez, Senior at Bergen Tech High School and Student Organizer with the March for Our Lungs. "I am so proud of all the brave people who have spoken up and joined our fight in protecting our environment and opposing the Meadowlands Power Plant. I am proud to live in the first of the 52 towns that passed a resolution opposing the power plant. And on May 18th, hundreds took action and marched for our lungs alongside my classmates. It is so encouraging to see everyone rally together to fight for a cause that is so important to us and our future generations. Hopefully, the actions we have made and will continue to make, will inspire others to speak up and take action in their own communities.”
"I live 2,000 feet from the Roseland Compressor Station" said Cassandra Worthington, organizer with Roseland Against the Compressor Station. "The last time Williams Transco expanded their compressor station (2013), there was a huge release of gas that triggered an emergency evacuation of our local elementary school. Now they’re pushing forward with a second major expansion despite widespread opposition from our local, county and state representatives. As someone who struggles with asthma, I'm concerned for my own health and safety, as well as children, elderly and other vulnerable people who live near the site. My story is one of many. We are coming together to demand a real energy plan for NJ, one that includes an end to polluting fossil fuel projects."
We need an EMP that is at the vanguard of meeting our future energy needs with 100% renewables, not more fossil fuels and pollution. Gen Whitlock, Climate and BlueWaveNJ student activist, concluded with “The climate crisis will effect everyone, particularly low income communities and young people of color who will bear the disproportionate impacts of the decisions we make today. Every voice must be heard. In the fight for climate justice, no one will be left behind.”
Other organizations supporting the press conference and/or testifying at the hearing with similar concerns include, but are not limited to: Empower NJ, BlueWaveNJ, Clean Water Action, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment NJ, Food and Water Watch, NJ Citizen Action, Newark Environmental Commission, Newark NAACP, People Organized for Progress, Sierra Club-NJ Chapter, Weequahic Park Association, Working Families Alliance, 32BJ SEIU, and more.
More information available at: Empower NJ: www.empowernewjersey.com , NJ Environmental Justice Alliance: http://njeja.org/, and NJBPU: https://nj.gov/emp/
Additional Quotes provided by elected officials and local leaders speaking in support of our demands for energy and environmental Justice, community engagement that yield positive local results, or no more fossil fuels when a green energy and jobs path is the best course for NJ’s future.
“Climate destabilization poses a great risk to the people of New Jersey, and to the fragile ecosystems we are home to. This is a global problem, for which there is no ‘silver bullet.’ Still, it is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can, as quickly as we can. Asm. McKeon and I have introduced a resolution urging the Governor to impose a moratorium on fossil fuel projects in the state. There is no reason to build new fossil-fuel guzzling infrastructure in 2019. We must start taking responsibility for our future today—there is no time to waste.” - State Senator Loretta Weinberg (D- 37)
“I commend the governor for recommitting the Administration to the Global Warming Response Act and thereby taking a broader approach to combating climate change than his predecessors. However, I continue to strongly urge the governor and his administration to go further. We are at an important crossroads. We need to move in the right direction and we need to do so now. We need a plan with a commitment to clean energy projects with an immediate moratorium on new fossil-fuel projects. NJ cannot and must not move forward with pending proposed natural gas power plants which will emit additional carbon and greenhouse gases. New fossil-fuel projects move us away from our clean energy goals and fly in the face of statements regarding the importance of addressing our climate crisis. In the words of John James Audubon, ‘A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.’ We must all join together to make the decisions now that will benefit our children and grandchildren. With that as the litmus test, our direction and necessary changes to the Energy Master Plan become clear." - NJ Assemblyman Clinton Calabrese (D-36)
“Climate change’s impacts are clearly hitting home across the country and here in New Jersey. We need to be a leader in the clean energy economy, and build towards a 100% clean, renewable energy future as quickly as possible. To be a state leader on clean energy, we need to clearly move off fossil fuel infrastructure and reject expansion of future fossil fuel pipelines and power plants. The time to take true action on climate is now.” - NJ Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27)
“The Meadowlands power plant will pollute not just our community, it will exacerbate air quality issues for the entire region. Fossil fuel power plants are a leading producer of the smog pollution that's responsible for the record number of unhealthy air quality days we’ve experienced this year. Building a major new power plant in an area already overburdened with polluting energy infrastructure will make things much worse. A real clean energy plan to improve our health and environment must start with an end to dirty and dangerous fossil fuel projects like the Meadowlands power plant.” - Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez.