It is the good kind of deja vu. On October 20, we got the good news that we beat a plan to build a fracked gas power plant in the New Jersey meadowlands.
Last year we worked closely with local high school students, residents and elected officials to stop a plan to build a massive fracked gas plant in the Meadowlands. It was a stirring victory in a campaign that was highlighted by a march of hundreds — students, their neighbors and families — through the streets near the plant site. By October of last year, Governor Murphy announced he was opposing the plant.
This was a huge win — but we hardly had time to celebrate. Just a few days later, a plan started moving forward to build a different fracked gas power plant in nearby Kearny. And we started organizing to stop that one too.
The NJ TRANSITGrid Project Planned To Use Disaster Relief Money To Build A Fracked Gas Plant
The NJ TRANSITGrid project, while not as large as the previous Meadowlands proposal, would present all the same problems: Air pollution that impacts nearby environmental justice communities, and climate pollution in the form of hundreds of thousands of greenhouse gas emissions.
What’s worse, this plant was intended to power public transportation in the state, and it was mostly going to be funded by a federal grant intended for Superstorm Sandy recovery. That’s right — the state would build new fossil fuel infrastructure that would only deepen the climate crisis, and fuel future storms, with money intended to help us recover from Sandy. Ironic doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Many In New Jersey Said This Fracked Gas Fight Was Unwinnable — But We Won
To many, the fight to stop the TRANSITGrid looked tougher to stop than the first one. The proposal was coming from a government agency, not a private company. They were mostly spending federal money. And the sales pitch to the public was that this power would improve train service.
Food & Water Action spearheaded a coalition of dozens of organizations. We held forums, organized rallies on land and even in the water — we paddled kayaks near the site of the plant and even in the river behind Governor Murphy’s backyard. We lobbied local and state elected officials, and generated thousands of petitions and phone calls to the governor’s office.
Thanks to that grassroots people power, we got 16 municipal governments to pass strong resolutions opposing the fracked gas power plant and supporting a renewable energy alternative. That included Newark and Jersey City, the two largest municipalities in New Jersey.
We also made a point to “show up” at NJ Transit’s regular board meetings, which have been held virtually since March, to let them know that we weren’t going to let them sneak anything by us. We mobilized hundreds of our members and grassroots allies to deliver powerful testimony at these meetings, earning consistent media coverage and making the issue one which they and Governor Murphy simply could no longer ignore.
Food & Water Action And Its Coalition Allies Got Through “Loud And Clear”
At the most recent NJ Transit board meeting, the news came that the agency would be shelving the gas plant and setting a new goal to develop clean energy alternatives to power their microgrid resiliency project — which is exactly what we had been pushing them to do all along.
In her comments at the meeting, NJ Transit board chair Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti emphasized the need for a transparent process, and said to our movement: "We have heard you loud and clear."
This is a potentially historic moment, not just because it’s the second major fracked gas power plant we’ve defeated in the last 12 months, but also because it creates an opportunity to develop what could very well be the nation’s largest renewable energy powered microgrid.
So what’s next? The agency will begin gathering proposals, and a contract with the winning bidder is still years away. In the meantime, the movement that stopped the fracked gas plant will hold NJ Transit accountable to their bold new commitment. And we will build upon this momentous grassroots victory and grow our fight for the big prize from Governor Murphy: A statewide moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects, an essential first step on our path towards climate justice.
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