People who live in the Ironbound – a largely working-class, immigrant area of Newark, New Jersey – are burdened with multiple sources of air pollution.

Maria Lopez-Nuñez is with the Ironbound Community Corporation, a local nonprofit.

“We have three power plants. We have a garbage incinerator,” she says. “We’re next to the Port of Newark and Elizabeth … and it sends thousands of trucks through our neighborhoods every single day.”

So when the regional wastewater utility proposed to build a natural gas power plant, local residents said, enough is enough.

The proposed facility would provide the wastewater treatment plant with backup power so it can stay operational even when the electricity grid goes down during extreme weather.

But Lopez-Nuñez says burning more fossil fuels and further polluting an overburdened community is not the right solution.

So her group is pushing for alternative approaches, such as using renewable energy and battery storage.

Her group’s efforts have helped delay the state’s decision on whether to approve the project.

“It’s been incredible the amount of attention we’ve gotten from all over the country,” she says. “So that attention has really slowed them down and made them think twice about putting a fourth power plant in our neighborhood.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media