N.J. implements new rules targeting power plants

Climate activists say the changes are not enough

By: - January 4, 2023 12:18 pm

Coal piles outside of PacifiCorp’s Hunter power plant in Castle Dale, Utah (Image by George Frey, AFP, via Getty Images/The Conversation).

(*This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, 2023, to correct reporting about rules governing carbon dioxide emissions.)

TRENTON, N.J. — Regulations intended to tackle greenhouse gas emissions that have been slammed by environmental justice advocates as not aggressive enough were adopted by the state Tuesday.

*The rules require new power plants to keep their carbon dioxide emissions below 860 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, ban the sale of certain fuel oil, and limit applications of fossil fuel generating units. 

Required by a law signed in 2020, the new regulations target power plants seeking permits, renewals, or expansions in “overburdened communities” — places where residents have historically suffered from environmental racism, low-income or minority neighborhoods, or areas where residents don’t speak fluent English. About 350 New Jersey towns have overburdened areas, according to the U.S. Census. 

Applicants seeking permits in those communities will have to submit a statement on how their plans will affect residents, and applicants will be required to hold public hearings. They also must prove a “compelling public interest” in the community housing the plant. 

The regulations were first proposed about a year ago and were the subject of a series of public hearings in the summer, where more than 250 people testified or submitted comments. 

Jeff Tittel, a longtime environmental activist, is one of numerous critics who say the new rule will not impact emissions in New Jersey because most power plants already function below the new requirements.

“The standard is so weak, it means they can continue to run with more fossil fuel and build more power plants,” Tittel said.

The Murphy administration has touted the 2020 law as “historic environmental justice legislation” and said it would allow the state to deny permit requests if a facility would create an undue burden on a neighborhood.

“The adopted rules are one of the initial steps that the department and other state agencies will take as part of a comprehensive scheme to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” the Department of Environmental Protection wrote in the rule published Tuesday.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Munoz is a reporter for the New Jersey Monitor, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.