Home > Uncategorized > A Key Lesson of the Victory That Forced Cancellation of the Amwell Power Plant In Hillsborough

A Key Lesson of the Victory That Forced Cancellation of the Amwell Power Plant In Hillsborough

Public disclosure of DEP “pre-application meetings” can put community on an equal footing

By now, it’s old news that a proposed new gas power plant – The Amwell Energy Center–  in Hillsborough NJ was cancelled by the developer, Genesis Power, LLC. Read he NJ Spotlight story:

I want to touch briefly on a key point that made the victory possible.

This is a victory for all the people – in Hillsborough and elsewhere – who cared, spoke out, and organized opposition.

It shows that we can win fights against giant corporations.

Of course, the victory also was made possible by local leadership and press coverage.

But a less obvious key part of the lesson learned is the strategic value of early and reliable information on DEP regulatory approvals. Access to information is power.

Keep in mind that this project came to the attention of local officials, the public, and the press as a result of an application to DEP for a wetlands delineation. That is an initial requirement for a DEP wetlands permit.

Large, complex projects typically require multiple permits from the DEP. Lawyers, engineers, and lobbyists developing those project conduct meetings with the DEP to discuss all the permit requirements and schedules for DEP reviews long before permit applications are submitted. These are called “pre-application meetings”. They are critically important, but secret and not disclosed to the public. (DEP has an Office o Permit Coordination just to provide this “customer service” – that Office is a good target for filing OPRA’s to keep track of big projects like pipelines and power plants).

The public needs to know when big projects: 1) apply for permits and 2) when project developers conduct “pre-application meetings” with the DEP.

With this information, we can be put on an equal footing with project developers and organize to block the projects before they are done deals.

As I’ve written many times, once DEP issues draft permits – which is the point in time when the public typically learns about a proposed project – it is too late.

There are several ways to make this kind of information publicly available, but the most effective would be via new legislation to require that the DEP disclose this information in some fashion – a website posting would be very easy to do.

I urge people to learn this lesson and to work for legislative reforms that can put local residents on the same footing as the developers and the DEP regulators.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
You must be logged in to post a comment.