I got an email alert today for action to stop a proposed generating station in eastern Newark to be powered by burning natural gas.
Subject: Re: Will Mayor Booker rescue us from this smoke?
[The hearing is] postponed until April 30th[.]
Environmental Justice Organizer
Does anyone consider the cumulative effect of this new air pollution on top of what Newark has already been dumped into the lungs of our children? Answer NO!
If you expect to live a healthy life in Newark or if the only thing that you care about is value of your property
COME OUT TO THE PLANNING BOARD HEARING on MONDAY and BRING YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS!!!
[signed] Bill Chappel
[The City] will be hearing an application from the Hess Corporation to build one of the largest natural gas power plants in the state
over 655 megawatts,
a 250 foot stack towering into the sky visible from our waterfront and beyond
emitting more than 1.7 million pounds/year of air pollutants
over 2 million TONS of CO2.
natural gas going to this plant derived from fracking in the region
While they claim net benefits to the region because they are cleaner than coal — Newark is already an environmental justice community that bears the brunt of so many polluting sources, and this facility promises to be another addition to an already burdened community without ANY guarantees about net benefits. The facility won't even bring jobs — only 26 full time employees at a facility that will rake in millions in profit every year and will spend close to a billion to build. The Newark Environmental Commission has voted to decline this application based on the serious environmental justice concerns related to the plant and the incomplete application which HESS has submitted before the Commission (Incomplete Environmental Impact Statement, no Emergency Preparedness Plan in case of explosions or accidents or Health Impacts Assessment, No Guarantee in writing about the net offsets from Coal, No offsets for toxic particulate matter, etc.)
COME OUT TO THE PLANNING BOARD HEARING on MONDAY and BRING YOUR NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS!!!
Ana I. Baptista, Ph.D.
Environmental & Planning Projects Director
Ironbound Community Corp
317 Elm Street
Newark, NJ 07105
Sorry, but I wholly disagree with this NIMBY crap. Particulates from natural gas? Trivial nonsense. Besides, raindrops form around such particles, as makes likely more rain that we need. Fracking? The one thing, a natural-gas-powered generating station, has NO necessary connection to the other, fracking (a stupid and hazardous technology that is NOT necessary to produce natural gas). Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, but a natural substance that is PLANT FOOD. It is what forests and our gardens, lawns, and ornamental trees use to create biomass and liberate oxygen. The bigger the tree and more plant mass there is, the more genuine pollutants they can remove from the atmosphere.
Prevailing winds in this area are from west to east, so would carry off these emissions high above our heads into the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, where the carbon dioxide would supply food for the algae and other phytoplankton that sustain the life of the sea. There is more than a little dopy, antiscientific drivel in the hysterical opposition to this project, and I won't sign onto it. I wholly agree with Bill Chappel's agitation in the Newark Water Group to preserve our water system. But I wholly disagree on this electric generating station. Allies don't have to agree on everything to work together on the things they do agree on.
Let us talk about the supposed 'pollution' from burning natural gas. Here's what the Federal Environmental Protection Agency's website has to say. I make a couple of comments in italics within brackets.
the burning of natural gas produces nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide, but in lower quantities than burning coal or oil. Methane, a primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas, can also be emitted into the air when natural gas is not burned completely [but it would be burned completely in a modern, billion-dollar facility!]. Similarly, methane can be emitted as the result of leaks and losses during transportation [more trivia, since almost no such leaks occur]. Emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury compounds from burning natural gas are negligible.
The average emissions rates in the United States from natural gas-fired generation are: 1135 lbs/MWh of carbon dioxide, 0.1 lbs/MWh of sulfur dioxide, and 1.7 lbs/MWh of nitrogen oxides.1 Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant. In addition, the process of extraction, treatment, and transport of the natural gas to the power plant generates additional emissions.
Would solar power, be it in the form of panels that convert sunshine directly into electricity or first into heat that is then turned into electricity, or in the form of winds produced by differential heating of the atmosfere by the sun, or hydropower from water lifted as vapor by the sun, be cleaner? Sure, once the solar arrays, windmills, and hydro generating stations are installed, tho there would be emissions in the production, transport, and installation of any such facilities — or anything else you create to generate electricity. NJ is not Arizona, so electric generation by solar panels is not an ideal fit. We do have a wide open ocean right nearby for windmills and wave generators, but some NIMBY people ("Not In My BackYard!") don't want windmills in their ocean views, so we'd have to put them beyond the horizon, which raises costs, first in building them, then in bringing the energy ashore. And windmills entail risks to migrating birds, so we'd have to be very sure of migration patterns. Wave generators might seem a good idea, but they would have to be very unobtrusive and out of sight of beachgoers in order not to hurt our enormously important tourism industry.
We don't have infinite choices, and a natural-gas-fired power plant seems a very good fit for easternmost Newark, our own Rub' al Khali ("Empty Quarter"), where NOBODY LIVES. There aren't even streets in much of the former industrial area of eastern Newark, as shown by this screenprint from the Official City Map.
Hess might not hire many people to run that plant, but it would pay taxes on the improved property it occupies. From what I know now, I cannot sign on to the opposition of this worthy project. Modern life requires electricity, which means that we have to generate electricity somehow, and somewhere. We can't build dams for hydropower anymore because of NIMBY agitators in rural areas, even where there are no migratory fish species at risk. We can't build coal-fired generation stations. NJ is gray, cold, and rainy a substantial part of the year. Is our electricity just supposed to drop into our houses from the sky?
I discussed the economics of fossil fuels as against solar, tidal, and geothermal energy in my political blog on April 16th. Here is the relevant passage:
Environment New Jersey sent email today to solicit my signature on an online petition demanding that Governor Christie stop raiding clean-energy funds to balance the State budget. Naturally, I not only signed that petition but also personalized it with these comments
Fossil fuels are for economic-policy fossils, people living in the past. Solar, tidal, and geothermal energy are the future. You must lead NJ into the future, not the past. And you don't do that by stealing from future generations — today's children and grandchildren — to fund the present. Solar includes wind, hydro, and wave generators, as well as biomass conversions thru ethanol production and even the burning of wood and agricultural wastes. These are endlessly sustainable and ultimately very inexpensive sources of energy for New Jersey. Why would you steal from our future?The claim is made by the defenders of fossil fuels that alternative, "green" energy is not economically competitive. This is an outrageous lie. The only way fossil fuel can even begin to compete with FREE energy from the sun, tides, and the Earth's internal heat is by deducting all the costs of exploration, extraction, refining, and distribution as business expenses under the tax code. If NONE of those expenses were tax deductible, a gallon of gas might cost — oh, I don't know, since no one seems to have done this calculation — $20 a gallon.
Contrast that tax treatment with green energy. If a homeowner installs a solar water-heating array, electric-generating array, or backyard or rooftop windmill(s), s/he must come up with the entire expense of purchase and installation, often borrowing money from a bank, which demands not just repayment of the entire principal amount but also interest. A tax credit might be available to cover PART, but not ALL of the cost, as is the case with every gallon of gasoline. In future years, the homeowner might be able to take some depreciation on that equipment. Might. S/he might also be able to deduct the interest paid to the bank. Might. That is, if the financing were done by a second mortgage, or mortgage modification that merged that cost into the property's first mortgage, the interest would be deductible for Federal income-tax purposes. I'm not sure that all state taxing authorities also permit such a deduction.
If green-energy equipment is not financed thru a mortgage, is any portion of the equipment purchase, installation, or loan repayment tax-deductible? I don't know. Nor does almost anyone else out there in the general population of homeowners who would like to install solar or wind equipment but believes the costs are prohibitive.
What I as a homeowner do know is that I cannot afford to install any form of green energy generator on my house or in my yard, so I cannot contribute to the solution of our energy and pollution woes. But fossil-fuel companies can charge off every cost of producing fossil energy against their taxes. Which means that the taxpayer is SUBSIDIZING fossil fuel, but NOT subsidizing renewable energy. And THAT is why we don't have solar collectors and small windmills on every appropriately situated house in the Nation. So, which form of energy is it that is nonviable without subsidy?
My house is located on a north-south street, and my main roof slopes east and west, not north and south (solar panels are usually connected to a south-facing, sloping roof). So do those of most of my neighbors. Nobody ever heard of solar panels in 1930 when my house was built, and there are scores of millions of houses in this country comparably configured as would make attaching solar collectors for either hot water or electric generation difficult and ugly. Has anything changed in the way houses are designed and oriented to the sun? I rather doubt it. If we are serious about green energy, one thing we must do is make the orientation of house roofs to the sun a major consideration for architects, public-policy experts, planning boards, and writers of building codes, as well as make consumers aware that this is something they should keep in mind when looking for a pre-existing house or planning to build their own.
As regards overcoming nite with solar power, there are of course batteries for electricity, and passive structures like exposed stone and water tanks in 'green' homes that absorb sunlite all day long and release it as heat for hours after the sun has set. Molten-salt solar generators seem highly advisable, but I am not certain that any of these seemingly brilliant systems has actually been built. NJ is, alas, not a prime geograffic site for such a generator.
Given the present limitations on how many sources of energy, from how many technologies, can be used to supply North Jersey's electrical needs, a natural-gas generating station in Newark seems a very good deal. Hess was founded in NJ, and some of its operations are still headquartered in NJ. If Hess is going to build a natural-gas-fired electric generation plant anywhere in NJ, and pay taxes to any NJ municipality, I'd like to see it build in a presently vacant area in easternmost Newark, and pay taxes to Newark's treasury.