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    Would-be power plant builder cited on air quality More than $69,000 in such violations date back to 2015, officials say.

    March 10, 2023 - Steven Rodas - For The Star-Ledger


      Competitive Power Ventures, an electric power generation company that operates a power plant in Woodbridge, was cited for more than $69,000 in air quality violations that date as far back as 2015, state officials confirmed to NJ Advance Media on Wednesday.

      The notice comes just over a week after a meeting to discuss a controversial proposal by the Maryland-based company, also called CPV, to build a 657-megawatt plant next to an existing 725-megawatt plant it has run in the township since 2016.

      Residents have expressed health concerns surrounding several of the emission sources flagged in the new violations.

      A compliance evaluation of the facility at 1070 Riverside Dr. in Woodbridge on Jan. 1, 2019, found that Competitive Power Ventures violated the Air Pollution Control Act and Air Pollution Control regulations, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection notice sent to the company March 2.

      Specifically, the violations letter said the company went above the state’s acceptable range of pH (potential of hydrogen), which measures how acidic a substance is, between July 9 and 10, 2019.

      In addition, the department told Competitive Power Ventures it went beyond the range of its oxidation reduction potential, or ORP, which measures the ability of a substance to either oxidize or reduce another substance.

      Caryn Shinske, a spokeswoman for the DEP, said Wednesday the department did not have further comment.

      Matthew Litchfield, a spokesman for Competitive Power Ventures, said in a statement Wednesday evening: “CPV is in receipt of the communications from the NJDEP concerning the penalties assessed generally due to operating permit deviations related to the cooling tower during the first few years of operations at CPV Woodbridge.”

      Litchfield said the company self-reported the issue cited by the DEP in 2019.

      “Successful corrective actions were taken back then and there have been no further issues with the cooling tower since,” Litchfield added. “We continue to work closely with the NJDEP and all regulatory agencies as CPV Woodbridge delivers the safe and reliable power that New Jersey depends on.”

      A Feb. 28 letter sent to Competitive Power Ventures — naming several

      A Feb. 28 letter sent to Competitive Power Ventures — naming severalpliance evaluations conducted between August 2015 and December 2021 — cited the company for:

      — exceeding the sulfur content in the fuel used in a diesel fire pump in September 2015;

      — operating a combined cycle combustion unit without properly monitoring emissions for nitrogen oxides or carbon monoxide during part of 2016;

      — failing to operate in the range of oxidation reduction potential on several days;

      — failing to submit semiannual excess emissions and monitoring systems performance reports between July 2017 and June 2021.

      In all, the DEP identified 13 instances of “noncompliance.” Additional violations of the kind flagged in February and March carry fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second and as much as $50,000 for additional offenses, the DEP said.

      The citations will result in $69,900 in fines, the state department outlined in its letter.

      Seventh power plant in county

      If approved, Competitive Power Ventures’ new plant would be Woodbridge’s third gas-fired power plant (a second located in the township’s unincorporated Sewaren community) and the seventh in Middlesex County.

      More than 160 people attended a meeting Feb. 28 to discuss building the additional power plant in the predominantly Hispanic section of Keasbey, Woodbridge — among the more than 340 towns the state hopes to protect with its Environmental Justice Law.

      Of the more than 40 people to speak at the meeting, all but two spoke against the plant despite claims from Competitive Power Ventures that its new facility would be low-emitting and follow state and federal regulations.

      “When my son was just 1 year old, we had to rush him to the hospital in an ambulance because he could hardly breathe. We soon learned that he had asthma, which is sadly becoming more and more common in our area due to the increasing air pollution,” James Dabrowski, secretary of Perth Amboy’s NAACP chapter, said during the virtual February meeting.

      “We should be looking for ways to reduce air pollution,” he added, “not the opposite.”

      Many speakers at the gathering last month pointed to health concerns they fear are linked to the facility.

      The American Lung Association gives Middlesex County, where Woodbridge is located, a grade of “F” for ground-level ozone pollution. The town also has seen water quality issues in the past, and state figures show people there face problems linked to air quality.

      Larry Hajna, a DEP spokesman, previously said the state will evaluate the environmental and public health impacts of the Title V permit application for the new Competitive Power Ventures project and consider the state administrative order, which looks to follow “the spirit” of the pending Environmental Justice Law.

      At least a dozen towns, various nonprofits and commission boards also have come out against the plant.

      Food & Water Watch, a New Jersey nonprofit, previously said the new plant would release nearly 2.3 million tons of greenhouse gases each year, as well as “hundreds of tons of toxic air” pollutants like carbon monoxide, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, sulfuric acid and lead.

      The figures check out, according to an application for the plant from Competitive Power Ventures.

      Steven Rodas, NJ Advance Media,


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