Maplewood TC voices opposition to fracked gas power plant plans for Newark

The Maplewood Township Committee unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s proposed fracked gas power plant in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark at its meeting on Feb. 1.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee unanimously passed a resolution opposing the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s plan for a fracked gas power plant in Newark at its meeting on Feb. 1, asking Gov. Phil Murphy to shift to a renewable energy alternative. Other local, state and federal officials were named in the resolution as well, including U.S. Reps. Donald Payne Jr. and Mikie Sherrill, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, and state Sen. Richard Codey.

The gas plant would be for backup power at PVSC’s existing plant in the Ironbound section of Newark. It would be running an estimated 32 hours per week, which Maplewood Mayor Dean Dafis said would send more pollutants into an already densely populated area. Murphy blocked the commission from voting on a contract to build the plant on Jan. 13, saying the plan needed more thorough review.

“Since taking office in 2018, Gov. Murphy has made clear that New Jersey’s overburdened communities will no longer be a dumping ground for harmful pollutants,” Murphy spokesperson Alexandra Altman said in a statement to at the time. “While the proposed backup generation put forth by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is meant to provide a critical climate resilience solution, it is imperative that the project adheres to the administration’s core values on environmental justice.”

Dafis also said the resolution is a matter of environmental justice.

“These are our neighbors. Our trash goes there,” he said at the meeting. “We owe them doing the right thing here. We’ve always taken a stand on these issues, even if they aren’t right here in our backyard.”

The committee did not discuss the resolution at length at the meeting, but Committeewomen Nancy Adams and Jamaine Cripe and Committeemen Vic DeLuca and Frank McGehee expressed their support for the resolution. In addition to Payne, Sherrill, LaTourette and Codey, the resolution will be sent to PVSC Executive Director Gregory Tramontozzi, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, Assemblyman John McKeon and Essex County Commissioner Patricia Sebold.

Maplewood is not the first town to pass a resolution opposing the gas plant. Last summer, the Hoboken and Livingston township councils did the same, followed by Jersey City in September and Kearny just a few weeks ago. SOMA Action, a local grassroots organization that advocates for progressive change, supported the Maplewood Township Committee’s resolution in a press release on Feb. 3.

“I’m proud that Maplewood is helping to lead the way in fighting for environmental justice and advocating for our environmentally overburdened neighbors in Newark,” SOMA Action President Jennifer Nielsen said in the release. “By supporting the resolution asking Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority to use alternative energy for their proposed power plant, the Maplewood Township Committee has given notice that they will not tolerate further environmental inequity in our state.”

In the press release, Matt Smith, the director of the New Jersey office of Food and Water Watch, a national nonprofit that advocates for a clean environment, said Murphy should take further action beyond stopping the initial vote on the project.

“Last month, Gov. Murphy directed PVSC to delay a vote to begin construction on a massive new polluting power plant in Newark. This was a critical intervention, but without further action from the governor this project could move ahead very quickly,” Smith said. “If Gov. Murphy wants to live up to his clean energy, environmental justice and climate commitments, he must direct PVSC to withdraw the air permit application for the gas plant and redesign the resiliency project without any increase to the already intolerable levels of air and water pollution in Newark.”