Resiliency collides with environmental justice in New Jersey power plan

New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. — Two of New Jersey’s big stated priorities — protecting the environment, and keeping minority communities from being overburdened with pollution — are about to collide in a decision over a backup power plant that would kick in when a sewage treatment system gets knocked offline.

The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission is expected to award a contract Thursday for the largest part of a $180 million backup power project.

It’s designed to avoid a repeat of what happened after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 when nearly a billion gallons of raw sewage spilled into area waterways while the plant was knocked offline.

But the plant sits near a neighborhood in Newark that residents say is already overburdened with pollution sources.

Resident Chris Rodriguez suffers from asthma.

“We are overburdened with so much pollution,” Rodriguez said. “To propose another power plant in this neighborhood, it’s a slap in the face to the community.”

PIX11 News reached out to Gov. Phil Murphy’s office for a comment on the issue. No one from the office responded.

But back in 2020, Murphy said the rights of residents to clean air and clean water would not be overlooked.

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