Greenpeace is in full-scale attack mode on Nestle as I write this. Media coverage of their attack has been minimal in the U.S., I suspect because of inconsistencies and lack of full disclosure on the part of Greenpeace in the past.
In New Jersey, the environmental advocacy groups I talk to seem to be woefully understaffed, sort of like the newspapers in the state. Given the enormity of the pollution and energy issues they want to cover, it is a serious problem.
That may be an explanation for a gaffe they committed last week that borders on willful omission.
As a reporter, I live in fear of misstating the facts, or appearing to selectively exclude important information. To have credibility with the media, and their supporters, advocacy groups need to hold themselves to the same standard as journalists.
Last week I got a press release from Environment New Jersey on behalf of a consortium of environmental groups titled:
“Environment Groups Call on PSEG Chairman To Announce Clean Up Plans for Jersey City Coal Plant”
I called up the head of the Sierra Club, who was quoted in the release, to ask if they were protesting the Hudson Generating Plant, the only coal-burning plant in northern New Jersey.
He said there was no protest planned per se, but they had written a letter to ask PSEG to announce plans to clean up the plant at a large Earth Day event at Liberty State Park sponsored mostly by PSEG.
The press release went on to say:
In 2007, the NJDEP and USEPA renegotiated the terms of a previous agreement with PSEG that mandated PSEG clean up the Hudson Generating Station. Under the new agreement,PSEG will not install pollution control technology on the Hudson Generating Station until 2010. This is four years later than a 2002 agreement with USEPA and NJDEP that required controls for particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, and three years later than the agreement would have mandated controls on nitrous oxide. In addition, eight years ago, PSEG agreed to install up-to-date controls for mercury emissions, butthe company has delayed that action until 2010, even though the DEP required other New Jersey companies to install mercury controls three years ago.
Since I am new to the New Jersey utility beat, I thought I should do some investigation. It turns out that PSEG installed the mandated filter towers in 2009 for $700 million. These towers reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury by 85 to 90 percent but do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The environmentalists know this. One of the authors of the press release that crossed my desk, Environment New Jersey, is quoted in an article on the installation of the filter towers on September 2009 article about the plant in the Bergen Record.
Granted, even with the towers, the plant is emitting greenhouse gases, which the environmentalists are fighting. But why the misleading and incorrect statement in the press release? Does the letter to PSEG also include this mistake?
Unfortunately, like with a newspaper, when you get the facts wrong or exaggerate, it damages your credibility and makes it that much harder to do what you want to do.
State environmental groups participating in the Global Green Expo on April 25-27 have sent a letter to Public Service Enterprise Group’s Chairman Ralph Izzo to protest the company’s continuing to burn coal at their Hudson Generating Station in Jersey City.
The electric plant, the only coal-burning facility in northern New Jersey, is located just a few miles from Liberty State Park where the Expo will be held. It burns both coal and natural gas, and is 46 years old. In September 2009, PSEG built filter towers for $700M to curb certain types of pollution from the plant, but not carbon dioxide.
“As long as PSEG allows its coal plants to continue to add to our air pollution and global warming, they will never be really green,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
The Expo, held the weekend following Earth Day – is expected to attract thousands of people to learn about eco-friendly products, programs and services available for consumers and businesses. The environmentalists will have a table at the expo, said Tittel.
“While climate change is a global problem, there are steps that each of us here in New Jersey can take to make a difference,” said Ralph Izzo, chairman of PSEG, which is the Expo’s primary sponsor, in a press release about the Expo.
*Photo courtesy of monkeypuzzle2010 on flickr creative common