Home > Uncategorized > Proposed Newark Fossil Power Plant Exposes Major Flaws In DEP Climate, Air Quality, And Environmental Justice Regulations

Proposed Newark Fossil Power Plant Exposes Major Flaws In DEP Climate, Air Quality, And Environmental Justice Regulations

Absurd Climate “Resilience” Fossil Energy Project Would Worsen Climate Crisis

Total Gaslighting By PVSC and The Murphy DEP

DEP Allows PVSC To Cook The Numbers As The Planet Cooks

Doremus Ave., Newark, NJ

Doremus Ave., Newark, NJ

I just learned from friends at Food and Water Watch (FWW) that on Thursday January 13th at 12pm ET., the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission (PVSC) will vote to approve construction contracts for a $118 million new fossil fueled power plant in Newark.

Newark EJ activists are protesting PVSC HQ and demanding the Gov. Murphy block new fossil power – I urge you to support their efforts (RSVP and FWW will send you details and talking points: https://bit.ly/PVSCJan13)

I was surprised to see construction contracts about to be approved before DEP issued the permits, so I asked FWW for the DEP permit status. FWW advised that the DEP had not yet issued air permits and they were kind enough to provide me with the PVSC DEP air permit application.

I doubt PVSC would enter into construction contracts without a green light from DEP. (I assume that contract termination costs would be significant for a $118 million project).

I’ve filed OPRA requests to begin to explore and expose how that could have happened.

After reviewing the PVSC permit application, I don’t know what’s worse: the major loopholes in DEP permit regulations or the desperate, shameful, and transparent effort to mask them.

Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette is a former corporate environmental lawyer, so he knows exactly what he is so cynically doing here by gaslighting the public instead of fixing DEP’s flawed regulations and therefore he should be ashamed of himself.

So, let’s drill down on those problems and expose the deceptions by DEP and PVSC who are coordinating this scheme.

I)  Climate – PVSC Cooked The Numbers On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

PVSC actually claims that their power plant would reduce current greenhouse gas emissions. They do that by cooking the numbers.

1. PVSC cooked the numbers to claim they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Source: PVSC Title V Air Permit application, Appendix B - Emission rate calculations

Source: PVSC Title V Air Permit application, Appendix B – Emission rate calculations

PVSC claims that their new fossil power plant actually would emit less greenhouse gases that the current PJM grid power that their operating plant would replace.

To support their claim that the project would improve GHG emissions, PVSC assumes a PJM emission rate of 1,647 lbs. MwHr (see Appendix B above). They cherry picked PJM data on a small number of dirty peaker power plants to do that.

In comparison, DEP’s proposed CO2  emissions rule for Electric Generating Units estimates the PJM grid emission rate is  1,132 lbs/MwHr (see DEP proposal at p. 20)

PVSC is using a GHG emissions benchmark that is 45% higher than the DEP’s benchmark. (and PVSC would not necessarily only operate their plant during the “peak hours” they cherry picked PJM data for).

If they used DEP’s PJM emissions rate, PVSC could not make the claim that they reduce GHG emissions.

I don’t see how DEP can approve – or even determine a permit application is “technically complete” – a permit with such a glaring fundamental data problem that conflicts with DEP’s own PJM emissions benchmark. Or allow its use.

2. The PVSC power plant does not meet DEP’s own CO2 emission rate for new fossil power plants.

The DEP’s recently proposed CO2 emissions rule sets an emission rate standard for new power plants: (DEP proposal at p. 25)

Proposed N.J.A.C. 7:27F-2.5(b) requires an owner or operator of a new EGU with a nameplate capacity equal to or greater than 25 MWe to meet an emission rate of 860 lb CO2/MWh.

The PVSC plant would emit 1,317 lbs CO2/MwHr.

That’s a whopping 53% HIGHER than than the DEP’s own new gas power plant emission rate standard.

No way DEP can approve such a power plant that would exceed its own emission standard by 53%.

3. PVSC Created The False Impression That Their Greenhouse Gas Emissions Were Regulated By DEP

DEP has no regulatory authority to limit GHG emissions or require mitigation for GHG emissions from the PVSC project. All they can do is require the most advanced pollution controls for other pollutants (not CO2).

I have written many times that DEP does not have enforceable regulations in place to effectively regulate greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the 80% GHG emissions reduction goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act, or Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #274 which set more accelerated goals; or the policies of the BPU Energy Master Plan.

The DEP’s recently proposed CO2 emissions rule also validates this criticism, because, as I wrote, the DEP failed to link individual permit emissions with compliance with or attainment of Statewide GHG emissions reductions under the GWRA or Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #274, as is done by NY DEC under NY climate law

I’ve also explained how DEP’s recently proposed CO2 power plant emissions rule completely ignored environmental justice.

Nonetheless, PVSC makes the following legally and factually false claims to the public and DEP in their Title V air pollution permit  permit application:

PVSC has conducted additional evaluations at the request of the NJDEP to fulfill the objectives of the January 2020, New Jersey Energy Master Plan. Section 3 of this application contains a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Alternative Technology Evaluation. The analysis shows that the SPGF’s maximum potential carbon-dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gas emission rates would be lower than those from the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) regional utility grid for peak standby power production. This means that PVSC’s removing its equipment from the electrical grid and providing its own power would provide a regional GHG and air quality benefit during peak demand periods when the reliability of the grid is threatened (e.g. a hot summer day).Section 3 also contains a renewable energy alternatives evaluation.”

PVSC and the DEP are desperately trying to convince the public that greenhouse gas emissions are being considered and regulated by DEP.

We already exposed how PVSC cooked the numbers on CO2 emission rates.

But note how the GHG emissions are treated, which exposes the fact that GHJG emissions are not subject to DEP regulation:

a) The PVSC responded to a voluntary request from DEP (the DEP request was not made pursuant to any applicable regulation and therefore is not enforceable);

additional evaluations at the request of the NJDEP to fulfill the objectives of the January 2020, New Jersey Energy Master Plan.

There is no law or regulation that authorizes DEP to review, limit emissions, or deny a Title V air pollution permit based on the NJ Energy Master Plan. None.

This request is voluntary, unenforceable and purely cosmetic and designed to mislead the public.

b) the policy guiding the “additional evaluations” is the BPU Energy Master Plan (which is not enforceable) and not NJ DEP regulations;

c) The GHG mission rates are not evaluated against a DEP regulatory standard (not even the emission standards in the recently proposed EGU CO2 regulations, which do not apply to the PVSC project), but rather are merely compared to existing PSE&G peak emissions (and these emission numbers are cooked, as exposed above);

Even if those DEP CO2 regulations were adopted and in place, they do not apply to the PVSC project because that project does not provide electric energy to the grid; and

d) there is no mention of how these emissions relate to attainment of the NJ Global Warming Response Act GHG emission reductions or those of Gov. Murphy’s Ex. Order.

The GHG emissions information in the permit application are all smoke and mirrors designed to dupe the public.

4. The PVSC greenhouse gas emissions estimates ignore significant emission sources and cumulative emissions

The PVSC estimates GHG emission only for the new power plant and only under a very misleading estimate of total annual operating hours.

The emissions from so-called “emergency” operations of the plant are not limited.

The term “emergency” is broadly defined, and could be invoked to operate during peak demand on a normal hot summer day (or a cold winter day as building heating is converted to electric and demand spikes).

PVSC did not consider GHG emissions from their existing operations or the over 200 trucks per day and the daily ships and barges they receive from NY City (did you know that PVSC imports and accepts 15% of NY City’s sludge?).

How could DEP allow PVSC to ignored diesel truck emissions when they just made such a big deal about regulating diesel emissions?

PVSC failed to consider upstream and lifecycle GHG emissions resulting from the fracking of the natural gas sources they would burn, or the GHG emissions from the transmission and distribution of this gas.

The PVSC failed to consider cumulative emissions from its own operations or from the lifecycle of the natural gas fuel source. Or cumulative emissions from existing pollution sources.

These are egregious failures – DEP can not deem this permit application “technically complete” or approve such a flawed application.

II)  Community Health Impacts – Risk Assessment and Air Quality

The various EJ and risk assessment screening aspects of this application are similar sham voluntary and flawed exercises designed to assuage the public not actually regulate or reduce GHG emissions or improve local air quality or community health (aka “greenwashing”).

  • wrong health endpoints: actual community health and vulnerabilities ignored
  • wrong pollution sources
  • wrong pollutants
  • wrong locations
  • wrong data
  • wrong air pollution dispersion models
  • wrong risk assessment methods
  • wrong “sensitive receptors”

We will analyze those issues in our next posts, as well as EJ, resilience and community involvement.

III)  Environmental Justice

IV)  Resilience

V) Community Involvement In The Permit Process

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