NJ Transit withdrew an aerial license to build a “TransitGrid” plant powered by natural gas after being instructed to do so by Governor Phil Murphy, marking a major victory for environmentalists and municipalities who fought against it.
A January 11 letter from Murphy to Transport Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scacetti said that “while the state intends to build the project,” the pending air license with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection “must be withdrawn at this time”. In the letter, he reminded the commissioner of the “clean energy commitments proposed by my administration”.
The request for withdrawal of authorizations was made to the DEP in a January 12 letter from Kevin Transit, CEO of NJ Transit, who wrote that Murphy “highlighted the need for (TransitGrid) to be done in a manner consistent with his energy commitments. clean to reduce New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to 2006 levels by 2050. ”
Corbett added that these “goals are fully supported by NJ Transit”.
The letter represents a second great victory for environmentalists and a dozen municipalities that opposed a gas plant the pollution it would have added to the air already below Hudson County’s standard.
At issue is a 140 megawatt generator and the largest NJ Transitgrid Power System, a $ 577 million project that would supply electricity to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, parts of NJ Transit’s Morris and Essex lines and the Hudson-Bergen light rail in the event of a power outage. The project is partially financed with $ 410 million in federal resilience funds from Hurricane Sandy.
In October, NJ Transit officials said they would consider environmentally friendly options for the gas plant to make Transitgird as green as possible, after activists and municipalities close to the proposed Kearny plant were opposed to the plans. Yet, opponents have repeatedly asked NJ Transit officials late last year to withdraw their DEP air permit applications for the natural gas plant.
“The news that NJ Transit has withdrawn its application for authorization for a huge fractured gas plant in Kearny is a major victory for clean air and clean energy,” said Matt Smith, State Director of Food and Water Watch. “This is an important step towards fulfilling Governor Murphy’s commitments to fight climate change and protect environmental justice.”
Opponents provided their own scientific research on advances in renewable technology
In October, Kevin Corbett, CEO of NJ Transit, said that a gas plant was not out of the question, despite consideration for renewable energy sources. After a NJ Transit board meeting on December 9, he told reporters that TransitGrid could be a hybrid plant using a combination of renewable energy sources and natural gas
“We certainly see it as a hybrid and expect a hybrid, whether it’s 90-10 or 50-50,” he said. “If we can do this 100% with renewable energy, it will be great.”
Murphy’s letter also appears to leave a gas-powered option open, if a power plant using renewable energy sources cannot be designed through the ongoing acquisition process.
“A new order can be placed when NJ Transit has decided how to proceed with the design of the project,” wrote Murphy.
In December, opponents of a gas-powered plant said that a request for a qualification process for TransitGrid made it difficult for renewable energy companies to meet certain conditions and did not put them on an equal footing.
The commissioner and NJ Transit agreed to an opponent’s request and extended the RFQ’s responses from January 25 to February 4.
Murphy also called for a “complete and transparent assessment during the procurement process in consultation with a renewable energy specialist to be hired by NJ Transit to determine if clean energy technology is available”.
Murphy’s decision also “puts NJ Transit on the right track to lead the country in developing resilient, carbon-free public transport solutions,” said Smith.
NJ Transit created a $ 3 million incentive to encourage companies with renewable energy knowledge and experience to participate last year.
Three awards of $ 1 million each will be awarded to companies that submit the top three runner-up proposals and the fourth company will receive the contract, said Eric Daleo, vice president of the capital program.
The ultimate goal of the process is to select an option for Transtgrid and award a contract to a developer in December 2022. Transitgrid is expected to generate 4,200 construction jobs, officials said.
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Larry Higgs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.