Opinion: Meadowlands power plant in North Bergen makes sense for many reasons

The current political climate has proven that the public is willing to believe inflammatory language from people who speak the loudest. Unfortunately, this is extremely dangerous as public policy requires in-depth, thoughtful discussion and analysis, not just knee-jerk reactions and soundbites. However, it appears that the environmental community has adopted these national scare tactics to thwart any meaningful conversation about infrastructure projects that serve our regional interests.

A case in point: the environmental community cannot come to grips with the fact that the proposed North Bergen Liberty Generating electric station in North Bergen Township is the definition of smart, responsible infrastructure upgrades that serve a vital public need; keeping the power on for millions of people.

The NBLG site is in a remote industrial area currently being used to recycle concrete, asphalt, and construction demolition materials. Certain members of the media have even described the site as “an industrial wasteland.” The new state-of-the-art electric facility, however, is engineered to exacting environmental and safety standards. Additionally, the facility would be built and maintained by highly skilled trades people. And once completed, the plant would allow for various forms of green energy – such as wind and solar projects proposed by the governors of New York and New Jersey — to come online so that the region has access to safe, affordable electricity at all times of day.

The members of the Bergen and Hudson Building and Construction Trades Councils have met numerous times with representatives of the NBLG project and we are fully convinced that this generating facility would be beneficial. Forgetting for a moment the thousands of jobs for our carpenters, electricians, pipefitters, operating engineers, and the dozens of other trades that would be represented during the construction and continuing maintenance of the facility, this project makes sense for a variety of economic and environmental reasons.

First, total employment from three-year construction including direct, indirect, and induced employment would be approximately 3,113 jobs in New Jersey. Employee compensation for this project would be about $257 million. Second, the 120 full-time and part-time annual jobs for this project would result in about $9.8 million annually of direct, indirect, and induced earnings. The State of New Jersey would receive approximately $3.8 million annually. North Bergen Township would receive millions of dollars per year through a negotiated PILOT with NBLG, allowing the Township to keep property taxes stable and continue investing in improved municipal services and facilities for its residents. These direct economic benefits should make people realize that significant infrastructure improvements have trickle down effects on other important public policy initiatives.

The real benefit of this project, however, is that building the NBLG plant would actually further the goals of the environmental community.

Once this plant is operational, over 9 million gallons of “grey water” would be used to cool the NBLG high-efficiency steam turbine. This alone has the potential to save the Hackensack River from absorbing hundreds of millions of gallons of grey water per year.

And while the environmentalists have been trying to scare people about the amount of emissions from the NBLG site, what they fail to mention is that several active inefficient regional power plants already produce significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than what the new, highly efficient NBLG plant would actually produce. With the imminent closure of the Indian Point nuclear facility, these older plants would be required to run harder and longer to meet the electric demands of the region, pumping more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. The operation of the new NBLG plant, however, would reduce the reliance on these substantially less efficient power plants that burn more emissions-intensive fuels, including fuel oil, effectively lowering the overall airborne emissions in our region.

Finally, what the public needs to understand is that the design of the NBLG facility would allow more green energy sources of electricity, such as solar farms and offshore wind, to enter the electric supply mix. The NBLG plant can fill in the gaps that green energy facilities leave when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. An active NBLG facility would encourage more development of green energy projects for off-peak hours since NBLG could begin generating electricity with as little as 30-minutes notice. Those that support renewable energy projects should support the construction of efficient, gas-fired power plants to supplement green energy generating stations coming online years down the road.

Environmentalists choose to be obstructionists instead of working with their elected officials to support realistic energy projects like NBLG that provide the most amount of good while doing the least amount of harm. The Building and Construction Trades encourage all of our policy makers to check the facts before listening to those with a very narrow environmental agenda.

Patrick Kelleher is president of the Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council. Rick Sabato is president of the Bergen County Building and Construction Trades Council.