Home > Uncategorized > Gov. Murphy’s “Pause” On Newark Power Plant Is Pure Theater

Gov. Murphy’s “Pause” On Newark Power Plant Is Pure Theater

The Gov.’s Press Office Is Gaslighting The People Of Newark

Project Is NOT Subject To Environmental Justice Law Or DEP Climate Rules

[Update below]

Apparently, Gov. Murphy asked the PVSC to postpone vote on the construction contracts. According to the Gov.’s press office: (NJ Spotlight)

The pause will allow the project to undergo a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process, ensuring that the voices of the community are heard.

I say “apparently”, because there are no government decision or policy documents. I am so tired of this administration governing by press release and press statement. Even the Gov.’s Executive Orders read more like press releases than policy statements.

Don’t be fooled: If the Gov. were serious, then DEP would have denied the permits.

The press office statement is highly misleading.

Here’s why. As I’ve written many times:

1) this project is NOT subject to the environmental justice law for 2 reasons:

a) because DEP has not adopted EJ regulations (they haven’t even proposed them); and

b) because DEP deemed the permit application complete before EJ regulations were adopted;

By law, DEP review of permits is based on the regulations in effect when DEP deems the permit application to be “administratively complete”. DEP did that long ago for the PVSC permit application.

Accordingly, the project can not undergo an enforceable environmental justice review because there are no EJ standards to enforce and no formal procedure for meaningful community input.

Given these legal realities, there can not and will not be “a more thorough environmental justice review and robust public engagement process” as stated by the Gov. Press Office.

Maybe the media can force DEP Commissioner Latourette on the record to clarify this manipulative falsehood.

2) this project is NOT subject to DEP’s recently proposed greenhouse gas (CO2) regulation for 2 reasons:

a) the DEP proposed CO2 rules only apply to fossil fueled power plants that generate and provide electric power to the grid (the PVSC project does not do that) and

b) the DEP deemed the PVSC permit application complete before the CO2 rules were adopted, so even if the DEP CO2 rules applied to this type of PVSC power plant – which they don’t – the rules would not apply.

[Also, as I’ve written, the current DEP air pollution permit rules that do apply to this project are fatally flawed.]

3. The DEP and PVSC may hold additional voluntary meetings with the community, but they are pure window dressing and manipulation and can have no impact on DEP’s regulatory decisions on the permits, which can only be made in accordance with and based on DEP regulations.

DEP Commissioner LaTourette is a former corporate lawyer and knows this. This is not his first time gaslighting on the EJ issue.

Shame on him and Gov. Murphy for such blatant gaslighting.

The Gov. Press Office is gaslighting the public, again. That is totally unacceptable.

[End Note: We saw this coming and predicted exactly this would happen.

On 1/11/22, I  Tweeted:

Screen Shot 2022-01-14 at 11.11.24 AM

And on 1/13/22 I wrote: (boldface in original)

we’ll see how today’s PVSC meeting protest gets covered and see if they approve the construction project. I’m predicting they won’t).

 [Update: 1/15/22: I need to explain the implications of why DEP can’t deny this permit.

The Gov. and DEP are in a box.

They both have made commitments and promises on EJ that they can not deliver on. The activists in Newark are not going away. And the media has begun to report on the project and is following the issue.

The DEP air permit regulations are fatally flawed and do not provide a legally defensible basis to deny the PVSC permit application.

If DEP were to deny the air permit, then PVSC could easily legally appeal and win (that might take years, but they would win). But PVSC is a public sector entity, so they might be reluctant to get into litigation with the State. One would think that a “free pass” from PVSC might lead DEP to deny the permit and use political pressure to block PVSC from appealing that decision.

But, here’s why that won’t happen.

DEP won’t deny the permit – even if they knew PVSC would not appeal – because to do so would provide a regulatory basis and precedent that could the used against other permits. 

Corporate industrial polluters would never let DEP get way with that. This corporate power is why the DEP permit rules are so weak to being with.

For the same regulatory reasons, this is why the EJ law if fatally flawed: because it didn’t require than DEP fix these flawed air permit regulations. Instead of that heavy lift – which corporate polluters would vigorously oppose and block in the legislature – the EJ law created a parallel process with vague narrative standards that can not be enforced by DEP. This parallel EJ process is what DEP has delayed and been unable to propose EJ rules. 

So, just like the PennEast pipeline, DEP must find some other means to kill this project (assuming they want to, which is a questionable assumption).

My best guess is that DEP will pull their longstanding standard operating procedure when dealing with public controversy and huge regulatory stakes: they will delay any permit decision inn hopes that PVSC will just abandon the project or withdraw the permit application. Just like the PennEast pipeline. ~~~ end update]

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