EELC Settles Air Pollution Appeal against Hess

The Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) and the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA), represented by EELC, settled an appeal opposing a Hess NEC, LLC (Hess) power plant air permit issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).  The Hess power plant will be located in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ.  ICC and NJEJA sought to overturn the NJDEP air pollution control permit because NJDEP failed to require Hess to submit an analysis of alternative sites, production processes, and environmental control techniques that demonstrates that the benefits of the proposed project outweigh its environmental and social costs, as required by law.

The settlement, reached in the fall of 2013, requires that Hess provide funds for ICC to staff an Environmental Health and Justice Program (EHJ) as well as coordinate in-depth research and advocacy on air quality issues.  Hereafter, ICC can track, review and comment on permits of concern in Newark with particular attention to facilities and permits with a potential for cumulative air quality impacts. They would also work to support the adoption of a cumulative impacts ordinance and environmental justice policies at local and state levels in partnership with NJEJA and the City of Newark Sustainability Office.

In addition, the settlement provides funds for the NJEJA community to develop a leadership training program and the resources to conduct an inventory of neighborhood air pollution sources, perform air pollution monitoring, develop policy solutions to reduce air pollution emissions, and present the air pollution reduction policies to their community and policy-makers.

The proposed Hess facility, a 655-megawatt power plant in the Ironbound section of Newark poses an environmental injustice in the community. While natural gas plants may be cleaner alternatives to coal, they still produce significant amounts of air pollution and will operate alongside existing power plants. The Ironbound community has several dozen major air polluting facilities that together report more than 1 million pounds of air toxics annually under the US EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory. Environmental justice communities like the Ironbound suffer disproportionately from cumulative pollution sources, and this facility will add to an already significant air quality burden.

The Hess power plant will emit upwards of 1.5 million pounds of air pollutants every year. Among the pollutants of concern are Particulate Matter (PM) as well as Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compound.

The environmental justice issue is that the Hess power plant will cause a cumulative impacts problem. Cumulative impacts result from multiple pollutants emitted by multiple sources in a neighborhood. The legal and regulatory system attempts to address pollution by establishing individual standards for each pollutant. However, multiple pollutants may be having detrimental health impacts on community residents even if no individual standard is violated.

This settlement allows the community to address the environmental justice problem created by issuance of the NJDEP air pollution control permit.

ICC is a 43 year old community based non-profit in the Ironbound community of Newark, NJ. The Ironbound is recognized as an Environmental Justice community, being significantly impacted by pollution and contamination. For more than 30 years, ICC and active residents have worked to mitigate these conditions and build a healthier community with proper zoning, new parks and sustainable development.

The NJEJA is an alliance of organizations and individuals in New Jersey that focus on environmental justice issues. NJEJA supports community efforts to remediate and rebuild impacted neighborhoods, using the community’s vision of improvement, through education, advocacy, training, and technical assistance.