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On January 13, 2022, Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission was to vote on a contract to build a $180 million back up generating power plant for its sewage treatment facility in New Jesey. The Commission stated that a backup treatment facility is needed for emergencies, specifically during hurricanes or other natural disasters. During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the treatment plant lost power for three days which caused 840 million gallons of raw sewage to dump into nearby waterways and the Newark Bay.
The plant is part of a $600 million effort to prevent the facility from going offline again. The Federal Emergency Management Agent is paying for 90% of the project.
Opponents of the plant sent Governor Murphy a letter in December 2021, asking him to intervene. These community groups, environmentalists and civil rights organizations stated that the power plant will go against Gov. Murphy’s clean energy goals and environmental justice initiatives. Opponents of the plant have stated that it will pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which will increase the intensity and frequency of storms. Lastly, they assert the plant will release pollutants into the air and add to the already poor air quality of Newark. The plant could emit 39,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, 8 tons of carbon monoxide, 3.5 tons of nitrogen oxide, 4.6 tons of particulate matter and other substances that would affect the air quality of Newark and other communities nearby, such as Ironbound.
Gov. Murphy stopped the commission from voting on this power plant and stated it needs a more in depth review of the effects it will have on the environment. This was after Gov. Murphy signed an environmental justice bill in 2020 that would force those looking into building a factory, power plant or other polluting facility to measure its impact on the environment prior to building. By Gov. Murphy blocking the vote, it will allow the project to “undergo a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process, ensuring that the voices of the community are heard” said Alexandra Altman, a spokeswoman for Gov. Murphy.
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