Does Woodbridge need another power plant? It depends who you ask

WOODBRIDGE – Does Central Jersey need another power plant?

Opponents of Competitive Power Ventures’ (CPV) plan for a second power plant in the Keasbey section don't think so. They say another plant will pollute the air and water and make climate change worse. They plan to rally against the project at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21 outside Woodbridge Town Hall.

The public is invited to participate and opponents, who note there are already two power plants in Woodbridge, also plan to discuss their concerns with Township Council members.

Mayor John E. McCormac disagrees. He said the first CPV plant, which opened in 2012, is the cleanest power plant in the state, if not the entire mid-Atlantic region. He said the plant replaced a site that contained radioactive waste.

"In our opinion, nothing is as bad as radioactive waste," McCormac said.

CPV, owner of the Woodbridge Energy Center, a 725-mega­watt natural gas electric generating plant in Woodbridge which generates enough electricity to power about 700,000 homes, is seeking state approval to build the Keasbey Energy Center, a 657-megawatt, combined-cycle, natural gas, electric-generating facility on a brownfield, a former chemical plant site along the Raritan River. When the company first approached the township in 2008, Woodbridge committed to two plants knowing it was cleaning up the worst site in town, and one of the worst in the mid-Atlantic area, the mayor said.

McCormac said the plants replace older and less efficient generations, which means lower emissions because less fuel is being used and less fuel is being extracted and transported.

"It's what the industry needs," the mayor said. "It's a better plant than the best plant in the state."

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But some residents question why another company can't come in and clean up the site, without adding pollution.

According to Food & Water Watch, an organization fighting the power plant plan, if approved, this site would soon become one of the largest climate polluters in New Jersey, emitting more than 4 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, along with toxic air pollutants that will harm an environmental justice community.

The organization also maintains the plant will be located within six miles of more than 70 public schools.

The new gas plant is expected to annually emit 148.7 tons of nitrogen oxides, 125.5 tons of ammonia, 123.6 tons of particulate matter, 110.3 tons of carbon monoxide, 77.6 tons of total suspended particles, 49.9 tons of volatile organic compounds, 39.9 tons of sulfur dioxide, 25.1 tons of sulfuric acid, 18.9 tons of hazardous air pollutants and “less than 10 tons” of formaldehyde, according to the Don't Gas Middlesex website.

Jimmy Dabrowski, secretary of the Perth Amboy Area Branch NAACP, said the NAACP is working with other organizations to stop a third fossil fuel power plant from being built in Woodbridge, which has been identified as an overburdened environmental justice community under the 2020 New Jersey Environmental Justice Law. Dabrowski said the Keasbey section is the township's lowest income area.

"The downwind is definitely going to really bring this air pollution to Perth Amboy, right next to Keasbey," said Dabrowski, a Woodbridge resident who works as a Perth Amboy teacher. "Air pollution doesn't just stay within the lines drawn on a map, it spreads."

McCormac, noting there are few homes in sight of the plant, questions whether the public would rather have pollutants from a clean natural gas power plant or flakes of radioactive material in the air they breathe.

"This is part of a plan to remove the worst possible environmental contamination there is," the mayor said, adding some residents wanted to test for radiation at Colonia High School, meanwhile the township is getting rid of a Keasbey site that is contaminated with radiation.

"That was the worst site imaginable and it's going to be gone. Anything else in its place is better by comparison," McCormac said.

The mayor said Woodbridge supports the project because "we would not put our residents in harm’s way from an environmental standpoint."

While the Perth Amboy City Council approved a resolution opposing the plant, Dabrowski said Woodbridge wants the project to move forward. Dabrowski said 12 governing bodies, including the Somerset County Board of Commissioners, Highland Park Board of Education and 10 towns, including East Brunswick, Edison, Franklin and Rahway, have approved resolutions calling on the state to deny the air permit sought for the project.

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"We don't care what other towns do, and they should not care what we do," McCormac said.

McCormac said the township gets $2.6 million in tax revenue this year under a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) plan from the existing CPV plant, and the money is used to improve roads, parks, sewers and schools. Revenue from the second plant is expected to be similar, which eventually will result in a savings of about $150 a year per house over 30 years, the mayor said. The savings with the existing plant is about $82 a year per household, he said.

Construction of the second plant is expected to take about three years once all the state approvals are received. Township approvals were issued about two years ago.

CPV is seeking a modification to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Title V air permit.

Food & Water Watch and other plant opponents however are calling on Gov. Phil Murphy and the DEP to reject the permit and direct the DEP to implement a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects.

CPV will hold a virtual public information session to receive oral and written comment on the proposal to build the Keasbey Energy Center, and modifications to the Title V permit and plans for a waterfront development permit, from 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 28.


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This article originally appeared on Woodbridge NJ power plant proposal draws opposition, support