The CPV power plant operates in Woodbridge N.J. on Feb. 27, 2023. The company's plan to a second gas-fired power plant next to the existing one is being opposed by residents of the mainly minority and low-income communities around the plant who say an environmental justice law signed over two years ago by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy but which has yet to take full effect should prevent the plant from being built. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

NJ - 'Enough pollution' in low-income NJ area with 1 power plant

WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (AP) — 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, which they said 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 (35 kilometers) 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 low-income 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 referred inquiries to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which considers Keasbey “an overburdened community” under the environmental justice law.

But because CPV’s application for an air quality permit was deemed complete in 2017 — before the new law was signed — the pending measure does not apply to it, said Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesperson. An administrative order issued by the governor requires CPV to take certain steps, including holding the public comment session it hosted Tuesday night.

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