NJ’s #1 Climate Threat: Pipelines and Fossil Fuel Plants Will Emit Climate-Altering Greenhouse Gases for 30+ Years
There are over a dozen major fossil fuel infrastructure projects in New Jersey that, if approved, would increase greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 32%. Pipelines like the South Jersey Gas pipeline, PennEast, and NESE, and new power plants like the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s proposed plant in Newark, will expose New Jersey residents to toxic air pollutants, damage critical ecosystems, and make Governor Murphy’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2050 impossible to achieve.
The New Jersey Sierra Club is partnering with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and Empower New Jersey (a coalition of 120 environmental, citizen, faith and progressive groups in New Jersey) to stop these dangerous projects.
Pipelines – Leaky, Destructive, Unnecessary
Grassroots groups across the region are protesting an onslaught of planned fracked gas pipelines that, if approved, would crisscross the state. These are 22-30” wide pipelines that run as few as 18 inches under the surface of the ground. Although older gas pipelines leak more, all gas pipelines leak. Methane leakage along the gas supply chain more than doubles the lifecycle emissions of gas compared to counting emissions only from gas combustion. Methane gas is the second largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide. This so called “natural gas” is 34 times stronger than CO2 at trapping heat over a 100-year period and 86 times more efficient at trapping heat over a 20-year time frame.
Digging for pipelines and building the required compressor stations is destructive. Horizontal directional drilling (HDD) for the Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline has caused 19 documented “blowouts,” one of which destroyed a resident’s home. Compressor stations and pipelines destroy woodlands and protected areas, jeopardize water supplies, and threaten our health.
The PennEast methane gas pipeline, spanning 114 miles, would begin in Luzerne County, PA, north of Wilkes-Barre. The route would cross the Delaware River near Riegelsville, NJ, then traverse Hunterdon County to the edge of Mercer County. The NJ Sierra Club and every municipality in Hunterdon County is on the record as opposing the proposed PennEast pipeline. Environmental groups and historic groups have also officially opposed it. Hundreds of citizens have also weighed in, the overwhelming majority speaking against the pipeline. What is everyone so worried about? What is everyone so worried about? (read more)
South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline
After environmentalists and concerned citizens fought a 20-year battle against B.L England, their South Jersey coal plant finally closed without it being repowered by gas. Since the plant is closed, the justification for the SJG pipeline no longer exists: they have nowhere to send the gas, and it would not serve or benefit people living in the Pinelands. The Sierra Club fought this issue in court and won. At this point we are calling for the State to rescind their approval for the pipeline. However, the NJ Pinelands Commission has so far blocked any attempt to rescind the pipeline. The Sierra Club has joined with the Pinelands Preservation Alliance to fight this in court. Read more.
New Jersey Natural Gas Pinelands Pipeline
New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) is proposing a new pipeline through the Pinelands. The pipeline would go through the Joint Base in the Preservation Area established by the Pinelands Protection Act, which is supposed to get the highest level of protection. Read more.
Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Pipeline
The fight isn’t over! This “un-NESE-sary” pipeline has been widely protested by communities, environmental groups and municipalities since 2016. It would bring fracked methane gas from Pennsylvania through our state to New York. In 2020, both the New Jersey and New York Departments of Environmental Protection denied the permit saying that the added gas was unnecessary. However in 2021 Williams Transco asked for, and was granted, two more years by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to find a way to build the project. We will keep fighting until we stop this pipeline for good!
Gibbstown Logistics Center Terminal
This new fossil fuel project emerged from the shadows in 2019 and moved forward with amazing speed and negligible public input. The proposed Gibbstown facility is a liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal along the Delaware River in Gloucester County. In June, 2019 the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) unanimously approved dredging for a deep-water seaport along the Delaware. This would be the first LNG export facility in the Delaware River basin and would involve extremely hazardous transportation and storage of liquid natural gas under high pressure. According to the permit application, over 1,650 truck trips per day would come and go from the logistics center. Trains would carry natural gas liquids (NGL) and (if approved) LNG. These trains have been referred to as “bomb trains” as, if an accident happens with a train loaded with 22 carts of LNG gas, the magnitude of the explosion would be equivalent to the atom bomb at Hiroshima. This disastrous project that will impact our public health, our public safety, and our environment. Governor Murphy has stated his opposition, yet the project is still moving forward. New Fortress Energy still needs permits from the DEP, Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard. We will keep fighting to stop this disastrous LNG project.
New Jersey Doesn’t Need More Fossil Fuel Power Plants
A study by Empower NJ found that the new fossil fuel plants proposed for NJ were would be of little to no benefit to NJ residents or businesses. Any true increase in energy demand could be met with improvements in energy efficiency, conservation and clean renewable energy developments.1 The Sierra Club in coalition with many other groups and the support of Governor Murphy, has successfully opposed the North Bergen Liberty Generating plant.
NJ Transit has also had a long-running plan to build a 140 MW gas power plant in the Meadowlands. NJ Transit have announced plans to switch this to a smaller microgrid using renewable energy and battery storage, however they are still requiring applicants to have the capability to build a 140 MW power plant. We are carefully monitoring this project, not least because it is located in a community that is already environmentally overburdened.
Find out about our support for green, renewable energy projects.
Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) Power Plant
The PVSC is a NJ State agency that is moving forward with a backup generation power plant that will increase air pollution and contaminate soil and water and increase noise levels directly next door to an next door to the Ironbound district of Newark, a community that is already overburdened with air, water, soil and noise pollution. We’re working with other coalition members and stakeholders to fight this project / protect the people of Newark. View the petition.
Phoenix Energy Center (aka Highlands Power Plant) in Holland Township
We are supporting the grassroots opposition to this project, which is led by the NJ Highlands Coalition and the Musconetcong Watershed Association. Phoenix Energy Center is seeking to build a 663 MW power plant in the Highlands Preservation Area, which is regulated to prohibit major industrial developments (e.g. power plants). The site is also next to the Musconetcong, a Category 1 protected waterway. There is no evidence that there is demand (i.e. need) for this power. Read Empower NJ’s information page about the Phoenix Energy Center.
Working to Ban Fracking
In February 2021 we celebrated the vote by the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban fracking in the Delaware River Basin, and to investigate creating a more comprehensive ban. This ban has been one of the main aims of the Empower NJ coalition, of which the Sierra Club NJ Chapter is a founding member.
Contrary to popular perception, producing electricity from fracked gas is worse for climate change than coal. The natural gas produced by fracking consists mostly of methane. Today fracking is accomplished using huge volumes of water laced with toxic chemicals and sand. These are forced into horizontal wells as much as a mile long, to create channels through which methane gas may flow. The results are an environmental disaster: contaminating drinking and groundwater, causing spills, blowouts, human health problems, clearing forests and polluting nutrients for our fish, animals and forests. Read more.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy and Management (BOEM) could open up areas from Georgia to Virginia to offshore drilling, putting the New Jersey coast at risk. Read more.