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A Green New Deal for the People of Linden

Aerial View (Looking Northwest) of DuPont and GAF Plants DuPont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant Photo:  EPA 1974

Aerial View (Looking Northwest) of DuPont and GAF Plants DuPont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant Photo: EPA 1974

The people of Linden gained a major victory last week in City Council’s rejection of a proposed redevelopment deal for the toxic Dupont site along the Arthur Kill. The deal called for construction of a $5 billion coal power plant, Orwellianly known as “PurGen”.

Community activists and environmental groups formed a coalition – “Stop Purgen“-  that mobilized strong local opposition, which successfully pressured Council to kill the deal in a 7-4 vote last week. Linden is a heavily burdened environmental justice community (see this for successful EJ petition to DEP:

  • The petition submitted by residents of Linden on behalf of the Tremley Point Alliance expressed concerns about protection and preservation of area wetlands, the lack of public participation and rising asthma rates in the city of Linden. One survey conducted by a Linden based community group found that there was a large number of school age children in Linden who suffer from asthma. The petition was submitted by workers and residents from Tremley Point, a highly industrialized section of Linden. The petition was filed by 170 residents and workers from Linden.

Labor groups pressed hard for the PurGen project for the jobs it would create.

With the defeat of the PurGen coal and dirty DuPont deal, the time is ripe for the environmental coalition to seize the initiative and propose a cleanup and redevelopment plan for the site that benefits the community, produces tax revenues, jobs, and reduces pollution.

Here it is:

1. Demand that DEP enforce State cleanup laws and force Dupont to cleanup the site.

The Dupont site and surrounding Tremley Point are highly contaminated and Dupont has dragged its feet for years on cleanup. If Dupont continues to drag its feet, DEP is authorized to conduct the cleanup themselves and recover “treble damages”, or 3 TIMES the costs of cleanup from Dupont. This is significant leverage to bring Dupont to the table and force a cleanup.

DEP recently took strong enforcement action against the City of Linden. DEP enforcement drove an Administrative Consent Order  (ACO) with the City to force closure and cleanup of the Linden landfill (see here). Dupont has not been subject to DEP  enforcement but deserves the same enforcement rigor that the City recevied. DEP should issue a Spill Act Directive to compel an enforceable  cleanup timetable, with stiff penalties levied against Dupont for failure to perform.

2. Leverage eminent domain powers to benefit the community, not developers

Local governments in NJ have not been reluctant to use eminent domain powers to take land for the benefit of developers. So, if DEP and/or Dupont are reluctant to proceed and cleanup the site, use eminent domain powers to acquire the site.

3. Finance the plan with Natural Resource Damage settlements.

In July 2005, DEP Commisioner Bradley Campbell cut a sweetheart deal with Dupont to settle hundreds of millions of dollars of “Natural Resource Damage” (NRD) claims at 8 Dupont facilities in NJ, including the Linden site. (see this for details). That deal was not only an unconscionable giveaway to Dupont, but the people of Linden received no economic benefits, dispite having suffered from Dupont’s toxic pollution for decades.

In June of 2007, Lisa Jackson’s DEP filed new NRD lawsuits against 120 polluters, including the old GAF site (now known as ISP) which is adjacent to the Dupont site, and the Bayway refinery (see this for list of 120 facilities and links to individual NRD lawsuit complaints). This time around, the people of Linden deserve the lion’s share of the NRD settlement proceeds. (Here is link to the GAF/ISP NRD lawsuit) (and here is a link to the Exxon Bayway NRD lawsuit)

Funding for cleanup and redevelopment would be provided from settlement of State Natural Resource Damage (NRD) lawsuits against Bayway refinery and ISP. Those suits could be settled rapidly for millions of dollars.

It is imperative that Linden receives a large portion of the NRD lawsuit settlements because:

a)  Brad Campbell’s DEP negotiated a 2005 sweetheart NRD settlement deal with Dupont for pennies on the dollar and Linden received none of the money;

b) Linden residents have suffered from the toxic pollution from Bayway and Dupont sites for decades

4. Form a municipal power authority and redevelop the site with solar panels.

The solar construction will produce good local jobs and ongoing energy revenues to reduce property taxes. Construction could be financed with a portion of the proceeds from the NRD lawsuits.

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