LINDEN—A coalition of environmentalists announced last Thursday that they have formed an alliance to fight a proposed mega coal plant in Linden.
Members of the Arthur Kill Watershed Alliance include the Tremley Point Alliance, the New Jersey Sierra Club, Edison Wetlands Association, New Jersey Environmental Federation, New Jersey Environmental Lobby and Environment New Jersey.
Linden City Council President Robert Bunk also joined the alliance at a press conference at City Hall to announce his opposition to the proposal, a 500MW coal plant and carbon capture and sequestration pilot project that environmentalists say will threaten the health of city residents and the local environment.
But the event was disrupted by about two dozen members of Steamfitters Local 475 who loudly chanted, “We need jobs.”
The $5 billion pilot project, called PurGen, would severely degrade the local environment and undermine Linden’s attempts to revitalize the area, according to the environmentalists. Furthermore, reliance on untested sequestration technology could jeopardize the state’s attempts to mitigate global warming, alliance members said.
“The environmentalists don’t have the facts of the process and they use that misrepresentation to scare the public into a doomsday scenario,” said Linden Mayor Richard Gerbounka, who said the safety issue is better left to the experts at the different environmental agencies that will review the plan.
Carbon capture and sequestration is new technology. PurGen theorizes they can capture and liquefy carbon dioxide and push it 70 miles through an offshore pipeline to be buried under the seabed. The proposed location for this experiment is the former DuPont site along the Arthur Kill. The pipeline will run under Raritan Bay through the ocean to the shores off Atlantic City, where the carbon dioxide discharge site will be located in ocean rock deposits.
The Obama administration has endorsed “clean-coal” technology, hoping to utilize America’s large coal stocks to insure less reliance on foreign oil. Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy, wrote an editorial published last week in “Science” magazine promoting the development of coal gasification and carbon sequestration plants.
Environmentalists aren’t convinced.
Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club Director and Chairman of the Arthur Kill Watershed Alliance, said the plant would lead to environmental catastrophe and risk human health.
“This plant is a five billion dollar environmental Ponzi scheme that not only won’t work but will lead to environmental disaster,” Tittel said. “This is an unproven technology that will be an experiment not only for the environment but for the people of Linden.”
“I have considered the PurGen coal plant proposal but there are just too many unanswered questions,” Linden City Council President Bunk said.
“Throughout my service there have been proposals which promised more than was actually delivered to the city. The tax benefits to the city from this specific proposal are still not clear enough. A project which only offers job growth some five years down the road when balanced against the immediate tax and environmental concerns fails at this point. In my view, it has not demonstrated enough of the needed environmental safeguards to protect residents.”
For union members, the issue is less about potential risks and more about the promise of jobs.
“This plant is not experimental,” said Michael Mulvaney, business manager for the Steamfitters Local 475. “It’s been done in the North Sea and other places, and it’s being done to help the environment. It also will create 250 permanent jobs here, along with 2,000 construction jobs for five years while this is built.”
Tonight, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a memorandum of understanding with DuPont to open up the 98-acre waterfront industrial property for redevelopment, Gerbounka said. The vote would be the first step toward building the plant if the memorandum is approved.
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