NEW YORK – A coalition of environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to prevent the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey from raising the Bayonne Bridge until the U.S. Coast Guard completes a full environmental impact study.
The suit, filed by the Coalition for Healthy Ports, North Shore Water Conservancy of Staten Island, Elm Park Civic Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, alleges that the bridge raising project could result in additional pollution because of increased ship traffic after it is completed.
The Port Authority owns and operates the bridge, which connects New Jersey and Staten Island over the Kill Van Kull. The $1.3 billion bridge-raising project is necessary to allow the new, larger ships expected to enter service with the expansion of the Panama Canal to pass underneath.
An environmental assessment conducted before the project was approved found that there would be no significant environmental impact because of the project
“The U.S. Coast Guard’s finding of “no significant impact,” flies in the face of evidence. The increase in cargo volumes and diesel truck trips will lead to significant direct, indirect, and cumulative air quality damage to the communities surrounding the port and this harm will be disproportionately borne by low income, minority communities in the Newark area,” said Aaron Kleinbaum, legal director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs.
“This is a moral issue. The ports cause pollution that hurts the surrounding communities – poor people who struggle every day. This project is going to make that pollution worse. But the Port Authority and U.S. Coast Guard are in denial about that. This project can happen in a way that’s good for the economy and fair to the community. Why won’t the Port Authority do that?,” said Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith and a steering committee member for the Coalition for Healthy Ports.
“We can update the Bayonne Bridge and protect the health of surrounding communities at the same time—but the Port Authority and U.S. Coast Guard must stop cutting corners,” said Melissa Lin Perrella, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council and one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. “By taking the time to properly evaluate the risks and identifying how to protect against them, we can capture the good jobs this project promises without sacrificing the health of its neighbors.”
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