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Happy New Year! Welcome to Clean Water on the Move, your monthly update from Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund in New Jersey. Take a look at what our amazing staff has been up to and what is coming in the month ahead. Thanks for your ongoing support for our work towards a healthy environment for all. 

Image of Empower NJ protesters. Image by Food & Water Watch

Breaking News!

NJ Transit is putting the brakes on a controversial plan to build a power plant in Hudson County! Clean Water Action and allies are now demanding the same for a similar proposal in Newark.

On Friday, NJ Transit announced that it will be “redirecting” $503 million in federal grant funds that were previously earmarked for the TransitGrid Microgrid Central Facility in Kearny. The backup plant – which saw opposition from local environmental activists for years – would have been fueled by natural gas.

"The death of this dirty gas plant is a victory for taxpayers, transit riders, the climate, and so much more," said David Pringle of Clean Water Action and Empower NJ in our press statement.

Ever since the Kearny proposal was first announced, community advocates have been fighting to stop the project because it would have increased climate-warming emissions and air pollution in already overburdened communities.

“Kudos to NJ Transit for this course correction. Now it must immediately and aggressively pivot from unforced errors and better focus on the many tough challenges it faces,” said Pringle.

The same reasoning that led to the “death” of the Kearny proposal should also apply to a controversial power plant plan in nearby Newark. Learn more in a news story here.

Meet our new staff! 

Image of nj-staff-Kelli Koontz-Wilson-Coalition for Healthy Ports Coordinator

Kelli Koontz-Wilson: Coalition for Healthy Ports Coordinator 

Kelli Koontz-Wilson is a native and resident of Newark, NJ.  She has coordinated Drug and Alcohol Prevention Programs for the Leaguers, Inc., The National Council for Drug and Alcohol Dependence, as well as the Jersey City Communities that Care Coalition.  

Her passion has been to engage the community to use the Arts to promote anti-drug campaigns using a Peer Leadership model. Her ATOD work with the Coalition also involved assisting volunteers to improve their communities utilizing an Environmental Strategies model.  She has worked for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center- (NJPAC) as the Coordinator for Dance and Theatre Residencies. She enjoys theater, writing, and poetry. She feels strongly that the Arts can be used in a variety of ways to help promote healing and understanding.  After receiving her BA in Theatre Studies, she set her sights on Higher Education. As a manager in the Career Development Services Department at NJIT, she enjoyed working with diverse groups of students. Afterwards, she worked in the Alumni Engagement dept. at Princeton University as the Coordinator for Affinity Programs. 

Kelli is ecstatic to work for Clean Water Action as the Coordinator for Healthy Ports. She feels that there is no cause more vital than the environment, and no Organization more passionate and dedicated than Clean Water Action! She can be reached here.

Image of Clean Water Action's Environmental Advocate in NJ Molly Cleary

Molly Cleary: Environmental Advocate

Molly, a Georgia native, decided to remain in New Jersey after finishing her degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at Seton Hall University in December of 2022. 

Her interest in environmental policy and justice is rooted in her study and devotion to sustainable development and its links with social justice, which she made key elements of her final thesis paper: The American South: How Outliers Were Made After Failures in Reconstruction, where she addressed how stereotypes and racial biases have stunted infrastructure and economic progress in the American South.  

No stranger to policy and campaigns, Cleary formerly interned at the Stacey Abrams for Governor, Jon Ossoff for Senate, and Raphael Warnock for Senate campaigns. She hopes to take these experiences, along with other various internships and opportunities, with her in this new role to better serve New Jersey and its people. 

Molly is elated to be with Clean Water Action and is ready to continue the good work the organization has been engaged in for over 50 years! She can be reached here

Skip the Stuff! 

Image of a graphic of plastic forks, spoons and knives that says Skip the stuff by ReThink Disposable

Clean Water Action is the lead on getting local municipalities to pass ordinances that require restaurants to only give cutlery and condiments upon request. As a result, several towns are in the process of adopting on a Skip the Stuff ordinance. This saves restaurants valuable money and saves unwanted plastic utensils and condiments from going into the waste stream, filling our kitchen drawers, littering our environment or going into the waste stream. Even with the best intentions, plastic cutlery is not able to be recycled because it jams the equipment. 

To learn more about how to help your town save waste, go to our Fact Sheet and tool guide which includes a model ordinance. If you would like more information, please contact Marta Young here

Navigating the DEP System: Seminar Series!  

Image of two hands holding in the air with text that says Be a Voice for Change in Your Community!

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has announced a collaborative series of seminars between them and the Environmental Justice Advisory Council's Environmental Education Committee. This initiative is designed to equip individuals like you with profound insights into the tools, regulations, and processes at the core of environmental justice. 

Registration for the Newark Seminar is now open. Your engagement is vital in shaping economic, social, and environmental justice in New Jersey. 

Civic engagement is the key to amplifying your voice and fostering positive transformation. Beyond comprehending the DEP system, it becomes a catalyst for change in your community! 

Join Us: 

Be a force for change – register for the series here. Together, let's navigate the DEP system and empower our communities to create a more just and sustainable future! 

While the first in the series started January 27, all sessions in the series are recorded and will be posted on the NJDEP Office of Environmental Justice website.  

To learn more about how to get involved in more Environmental Justice initiatives, contact X Braithwaite here

TOXIC CARGO - How rail transport of vinyl chloride puts millions at risk, an analysis one year after the Ohio train derailment 

Image of a cargo train

In a report published January 22nd, Clean Water Action worked in collaboration with Toxic Free Future and Material Research on their report about Polyvinyl Chloride and the disastrous effects it can have on communities. Nearly one year ago today, on February 3, 2023, five train cars containing 887,400 pounds (115,000 gallons) of vinyl chloride, the key building block for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, derailed and were subsequently burned, setting off a major environmental health disaster that sickened area residents and first responders, killed wildlife, and contaminated East Palestine, Ohio and surrounding communities. 

A similar disaster struck Paulsboro, New Jersey in 2012. In both cases, the train cars carrying cancer-causing vinyl chloride were on their way to plastics manufacturing plants in New Jersey owned by OxyVinyls (a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum) where factories make PVC plastic for flooring and other building materials sold at major retailers like The Home Depot. 

Read State Director Amy Goldsmith’s quote featured in our press release

“New Jersey residents and workers face health risks and potential disaster each and every day as train cars of vinyl chloride roll through majority Black and Brown neighborhoods (in Camden and Paulsboro) on their way to the production lines of the OxyVinyls and Orbia chemical plants in Pedricktown, NJ – adding to the injustices and disproportionate body burden of pollution they bear. Chemical train car derailments have catastrophic consequences as proven by the Paulsboro, NJ (2012) and East Palestine, OH (2023) vinyl chloride disasters.

If we want to prevent future signature forms of liver cancer or bone degradation in the hands of those exposed in/near the Oxy plant, rail corridor or as first responders, then we must employ the best and only true line of protection – phase out vinyl chloride and PVC in products while making polluters address the impacted communities and workers as we transition to safer alternatives. In doing so, every time you go to your local store or The Home Depot you would feel more confident that your purchase is more mindful of our health, communities and the planet. We know it is possible as Apple phased out PVC over 10 years ago and IKEA nearly 30 years ago.” 

Read the report here.