Bloomfield man marched 50 miles in opposition to natural gas power plants

Photo Courtesy of Food & Water Watch NJ
Opponents of natural gas power plants rally during a 50-mile walk from Aug. 16 through 20.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — After starting from Newark’s Ironbound section on Tuesday, Aug. 16, a five-day, 50-mile walk by environmentalists concluded Saturday, Aug. 20, in sight of Gov. Phil Murphy’s residence in Red Bank with more than 100 people in attendance. According to Bloomfield resident Ted Glick, a participant each day, the walk went through municipalities with proposals for new or expanded natural gas facilities. Glick, the president of 350 NJ-Rockland, an environmental advocacy organization, said the event was covered by four TV outlets. 

“This walk is about fossil fuel projects the governor and energy companies are trying to advance,” he told The Independent Press.

The walkers are advocates for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, and opponents of natural gas as an energy source. The process to release and capture natural gas is called fracking.

“Fracking is essentially hydraulic fracturing” of rock, Glick said. “It requires drilling down literally a mile into shale. Then water, laced with chemicals, some definitely toxic, is pumped in. The water migrates and the combination of water, chemicals and sand causes an explosion releasing gas, which is captured. The gas is basically methane, a natural gas. But a lot of it, as much as 9 percent, escapes and goes into the atmosphere and contributes to heating up the planet.”

The walk was sponsored by Empower NJ, a coalition of more than 120 activist groups. It started in Newark’s Ironbound section because of opposition to the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s proposal to build a power plant there in order to prevent power outages, like those experienced from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. That outage stopped sewage processing and caused raw sewage to pour directly into the Passaic River, according to Glick. PVSC wants a power plant that will not be on the grid — that is, a power plant not dependent on customary energy sources that might be disrupted by storms. 

“We’re not against that,” he said. “But the Ironbound section doesn’t need another (natural gas) power plant. We’ve been working with the Ironbound community to look for energy sources without burning gas. It shouldn’t be a fossil fuel plant.”

Solar energy and river tides, he said, are alternate energy sources and should be seriously considered. 

With their banners, walkers also showed opposition to a proposed NJ Transit backup power plant fueled by natural gas in Kearny. Activists had been able to get Murphy to ask NJT to consider renewable energy, but NJT did not consider that a viable option.

“NJT is not serious about getting an energy source using renewable energy,” Glick said. “There’s some federal funding to do this, but NJT is doing what they’ve been doing for generations. They go to fossil fuels for power.”

It is necessary for the governor, Glick said, to declare a moratorium on fossil fuel projects in New Jersey.

“This transition away from fossil fuels is definitely happening worldwide,” he said, “but not fast enough. I remember years ago, the top energy companies were oil companies. That’s not true anymore. Wind and solar are growing fast with a lot of jobs. The coal industry has shrunk considerably; natural gas is on the ascendancy.”

From the Ironbound section, the walk proceeded 8 miles to Elizabeth where the first leg ended Tuesday evening. In Elizabeth, the walkers stopped at a branch bank of JP Morgan Chase to present a representative with a financial report showing that Chase is the leading bank for the natural gas industry. The walkers took rides home from here and returned the next day. 

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, the walkers went from Elizabeth to Woodbridge. According to Glick, there was a good rally in Woodbridge against a natural gas power plant proposed by Competitive Power Ventures, a developer. 

Most of the trek had been on sidewalks until Thursday, Aug. 18, Glick said. The walkers were on their way to Old Bridge where Williams, an energy company, was upgrading pipelines and preparing to build a natural gas compressor. 

“It was a little tricky,” Glick said. “We walked on Route 9 and under a bridge and there was no sidewalk and we had to climb a guard rail. On the other side, there was grass. We had about a dozen people at this point.”

The day’s walk ended in Old Bridge and, on Friday, Aug. 19, continued to Middleton where the group presented a financial report at another Chase Bank branch.

On Saturday, in Red Bank, the group held a rally at Marine Park.

“The reason for Marine Park is because the governor’s house is across the Navesink River,” Glick said, adding that the governor may talk the talk about renewable energy, but he does not walk the walk.

“Between what we did and the media, we got the word out,” Glick said. “Renewable energy is not a niche effort anymore.”