After more than a year of deliberating, Gov. Phil Murphy has for the first time taken a stance against a controversial gas-fired power plant project in the Meadowlands, putting its future in question.
Murphy spoke out against the proposed North Bergen Liberty Generating station on his monthly radio call-in show on WBGO Wednesday evening, saying he had come to an “epiphany.”
“I’ve come to the point that I’ve deferred on this long enough, and I have to say definitively, this project simply doesn’t make sense for New Jersey,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m opposed to it. I just can’t find the justification for building a power plant in the Meadowlands and increasing emissions.”
Murphy had not previously expressed an opinion on the $1.5 billion project that would generate electricity solely for New York City, saying that he was taking a “to be determined” approach before making an assessment.
But on Wednesday, he said with no permits or proposals for the project up for review, “It’s time to throw the towel in, particularly when you look at the potentially environmental damage.”
The state Department of Environmental protection approved initial permits for the project in July 2018, but the plan stalled this past June over permitting issues related to air quality.
Environmentalists have called Murphy out repeatedly for failing to take a stance, saying the plant would have a devastating impact on the protected wetlands that surround the proposed site and would be a major source of greenhouse gas pollution while providing no benefit to the region.
Critics have also argued the fossil fuel-powered plant flies in the face of the governor’s plan to move the state toward 100% renewable energy sources like solar and wind by 2050.
New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel says now that Murphy’s made his opposition known, he needs to go a step further to keep the plant from being built.
“If the governor is serious about this, then he needs to put a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects. That way the DEP can put in rules and regulations in place for CO2 and [greenhouse gases] and stop this power plant. Otherwise, Murphy’s words are just more hot air,” he said.
In a statement issued shortly after the governor’s announcement, North Bergen Mayor Nick Sacco said the town was no longer pursuing the project, despite the loss of potential jobs and tax revenue.
“We will now move on to finding an alternate use for the property,” he said.
But on Friday, North Bergen Liberty Generating, which is majority-owned by Mitsubishi subsidiary Diamond Generating Corporation, issued a statement saying they were not backing down.
“While we are disappointed with the governor’s statement, we intend to move forward with this project,” the statement reads. “It’s important to the economic, employment and energy interests of the region and – once again – we underscore that the project will be supportive of all environmental considerations.”
Edited to include comment from North Bergen Liberty Generating.