New Jersey’s public transit agency announced on 26 January that it is scrapping plans for a backup power plant that would have been fuelled by natural gas, in response to the activities of environmental justice advocates who have targeted it and several other power plants in largely minority areas.

NJ Transit said it will be redirecting $503 million in federal funding that would have been used to build the backup system, called the TransitGrid Microgrid Central Facility, MCF, to other resiliency projects scattered around northern and central New Jersey.

The project had become a significant social justice issue. The backup plant was to have been built in Kearny, a low-income community near Newark, the state’s largest city and home to another intensively fought plan for a similar backup power project for a sewage treatment plant.

“A … review of industry proposals for the MCF revealed that the project was not financially feasible,” NJ Transit said in a company statement. “Further, since this project was originally designed, multiple improvements to the affected power grid have been enacted that have functionally made the MCF as envisioned at that time much less necessary than other critical resiliency projects.”

The agency said a utility, PSE&G, has made significant investments in power grid resiliency throughout the region that has greatly increased power reliability.

The move was hailed by opponents who said it would have added yet another polluting project to communities that are already overburdened with them — despite a state law signed in 2020 by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy that is supposed to prevent that from happening.

“This is a victory for the grassroots activists who never stopped pushing the Murphy administration to reject a scheme to place a new fossil fuel project near communities that have suffered from decades of industrial pollution,” said Matt Smith, New Jersey director of the environmental group Food & Water Watch.

NJ Transit said the money will instead be spent on the replacement of a bridge over the Raritan River, as well as upgrades to the Hoboken Rail Terminal and the expansion of a rail storage yard in New Brunswick, where 120 rail cars could be stored in an area considered to be out of danger of flooding.

Cancellation of the Kearny project immediately led to renewed calls by the same advocates for a similar plan to be cancelled at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission in Newark. That plan is still pending.