In what appears to be a response to public pressure, the city of Newark has scheduled a public information session about a data center and power plant, proposed for development on the University of Delaware's STAR Campus.
The session is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. at the George Wilson Community Center located at 303 New London Road. The city says it is an opportunity for The Data Centers LLC to inform residents about all aspects of its project and answer questions.
“Initially we received a lot of pushback from city officials that they were not going to have a public meeting until final plans had been submitted to the city. And clearly, if final plans are submitted where is there opportunity for the public, or neighbors, to have a voice in shaping those plans,” asked Amy Roe, an activist with the Sierra Club here in Delaware.
Roe says it's hard to say if plans for the data center are objectionable because very little information has been made publicly available, but "it’s the power plant that’s causing concern.”
TDC, based in West Chester, PA, develops data centers that can process large quantities of information, meeting companies' IT demands. Building a self-sufficient power plant alongside, TDC says, provides uninterrupted off-grid power to run the data system. In Newark's case, the power plant would be powered by natural gas.
Roe worries about the environmental risks associated with a 248-Megawatt natural gas plant. Although cleaner burning than coal, Roe says natural gas has the potential to produce sizeable amounts of hazardous air pollutants, like nitrogen oxides, precursors to ozone. Other Newark residents worry about noise pollution created by the power plant.
Those concerns were magnified, Roe says, by the city's seeming lack of transparency throughout this entire process.
“I’m worried about the silence from the city on this project," Roe said. “To learn that your town government has been negotiating for a year for this and none of the neighbors know is very worrisome.”
Newark's Community Affairs Officer Dana Johnston says the city has nothing to share since plans have not been officially submitted. Johnston says the city is simply providing publicity and a space for Tuesday's meeting, where TDC will provide more substantive answers.
Emails sent to TDC asking how much the proposed project will cost and when final plans will be submitted have yet to be returned.
Roe says she will attend Tuesday night's meeting, questions in hand.
Residents who are not able to attend, can review The Data Centers' responses to questions as well as all documents presented at the meeting on Newark's website at www.cityofnewarkde.us or obtain copies of the same from the City Secretary's Office soon after the session.