Polluters Exploit the People of Puerto Rico For Profit
Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) learned that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a highly unusual and suspect second extension to Energy Answers of their Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Quality (PSD) permit that would allow the company to move forward in the construction of a waste-to-energy incinerator in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. It was extended contrary to the EPA’s own guidance to not extend a PSD permit without commencement of construction on the proposed site by the deadline of April 10, 2017. As reported yesterday and previously, Rep. Gutiérrez called on the EPA not to extend the permit.
“I am outraged by the EPA’s decision,” Rep. Gutiérrez said. “Unfortunately, this decision was a fait accompli. The EPA violated its own guidance and its mission to protect public health and the environment and sided with polluter Energy Answers and let the people of Puerto Rico down. The exploitation of our beautiful island of Puerto Rico and its people to the benefit of the wealthy and powerful must end, now. Corporations should not use Puerto Rico as a trash dump for profit while the federal government looks the other way.”
In response to the EPA extension, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez wrote to EPA Region 2 Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe to demand that the decision be reconsidered and permit extension revoked and to request that the agency share the monthly construction updates they have requested of Energy Answers. The text of the letter is below:
April 11, 2017
Ms. Catherine McCabe
Acting Regional Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
New York, NY 10007-1866
Dear Acting Regional Administrator McCabe:
I write to urge the EPA to reconsider the decision it made with regard to Energy Answers’ March 21, 2017 request for an extension of the final Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit. I find the EPA’s decision in this case highly unusual and offensive, given that it is contrary to your own guidance requiring construction by April 10th at the proposed site for the waste-to-energy incinerator.
There is no doubt in my mind that if this incinerator were proposed in your back yard, such as in Albany, NY, a city similar in population as Arecibo, the EPA would never have granted the extension. You are also likely aware that Energy Answers first tried to build an incinerator in the south Baltimore, MD neighborhood of Curtis Bay, but the project failed in the face of understandable and justified community opposition.
Why, then, would Energy Answers put its sights on building a trash incinerator in Arecibo? Because Puerto Rico is a place corporations, sadly with the help of the federal government, can get away with the kind of pollution and exploitation that would never be permitted in New York or Chicago or anywhere else in the mainland United States. We need only look at recent history: the collusion of the U.S. Congress with bankers and bondholders to pass PROMESA and impose a fiscal control board on Puerto Rico; the contamination of the local environment in and around Peñuelas and other towns in Puerto Rico with coal ash; and the failed effort to construct the Gasoducto, a gas pipeline, through the heart of the tropical island of Puerto Rico. History has shown that such projects that threaten the health, safety and wellbeing of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are laden with secretive backdoor deals that benefit the wealthy or powerful few and our government plays along and treats Puerto Ricans as second class citizens.
With regard to this incinerator and based on my conversation yesterday with you, this decision was an apparent fait accompli. The EPA has sacrificed the health and safety of residents of Arecibo and all Puerto Ricans and shamefully sided with Energy Answers by extending the polluter’s PSD permit. It’s an outrage and Americans both on and off the Island should not stand for it. I urge you to reconsider this decision and revoke the extension.
In your letter to Energy Answers Vice President Mark J. Green, you request monthly construction updates during the 5-month extension of the PSD permit. I ask that you share those same updates with me as you receive them.
Luis V. Gutiérrez
Member of Congress
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