LINDEN – City Council members sided with Council President Robert Bunk and the Arthur Kill Watershed Alliance last week, rejecting a plan to build a $5 billion “clean coal” power plant and disappointing union members hoping for jobs.
The council rejected a memorandum of understanding that would have given the city’s full support to the project, to be built by PurGen on the site of a former DuPont plant on the waterfront, by a vote of 7-4.
“It’s upsetting that a majority of council turned this issue down. I’m very disappointed. To me it stinks of politics,” Gerbounka said about the vote.
Council members Joe Harvanik, Derek Armstead, Jack Sheehy and Robert Frazier, who are allied with Gerbounka, voted in favor of the project. The other six council members, all Democrats, sided with Bunk against it.
A standing-room only crowd argued over the merits of the project for three hours before the vote was taken. While residents expressed concerns about safety and the environmental impact, others hoped for the promise of good jobs that the plant would bring.
The “clean coal” plant would be a showcase for a new carbon capture and sequestration 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 pipeline would run under Raritan Bay through the ocean to the shores off Atlantic City, where a carbon dioxide discharge site would 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 this month in ‘Science’ magazine promoting the development of coal gasification and carbon sequestration plants.
The council’s vote means a return to litigation to determine the future of the former DuPont site. The city designated the site as a redevelopment area subject to eminent domain in 2003.
“We had an opportunity to move forward,” said Gerbounka, noting that the project would have brought jobs and substantial host-community benefits based on its $5 billion cost.
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