Members of the The Coalition of Anti-Incineration Organizations, accompanied by Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, questioned yesterday the evaluation and determination mechanism used by the Oversight Board to qualify as a critical project the Energy Answers waste incineration plant.
The group went further and warned that it will be attentive for the mechanisms detailed in the PROMESA Law to be complied with so that the Board can promote the development of the controversial project that would be built in Arecibo.
Gutiérrez said that, according to the PROMESA Law, in order for a critical project to be carried out, it has to meet four requirements: that the Board files a public report on the project and governor Ricardo Rosselló´s recommendations about it , as well as those by the Planning Board and the Energy Commission. None of these steps, he said, have been followed.
"I am asking for these documents, because the Board, established by federal law, has to take those four steps before proceeding. I have not seen them, nobody has seen them," he said.
On Tuesday last week, Noel Zamot, coordinator of revitalization of the Board, announced that they would promote four energy projects, including the waste incineration plant that counted on former governor Luis Fortuño´s lobbying in favor. This project can create 7,750 jobs, but 7,000 of them during the three years that construction would last, according to figures offered by the Board.
"This is a dirty project because it generates pollution. This is a dirty project because it is done behind the backs of people and it is a dirty project because we do not know who is paying or who is lobbying before the Oversight Board," denounced the Democratic congressman.
This group of citizens demonstrated in front of the Board, in Hato Rey, yesterday. They arrived there claiming to be heard after years of struggle, during which they have questioned the project due to its implications against the environment and health.
Myrna Conty, coordinator of the Coalition, objected to the public participation process announced by Zamot in which people interested in expressing themselves could do so through the website of critical projects process.
The deadline is February 6. Then, Zamot will have 30 days to react to the comments and disclose his responses.
"The public participation procedure is a mockery. How do they claim that Arecibo citizens, many of whom still do not have power or Internet, look for a computer and comment? ", expressed Conty indignantly.
She also pointed out that the qualification of the project as a critical one is nothing but an excuse to give "preferential" treatment to the company, forgetting that they have not been able to comply with the permit process demanded by both state and federal governments.
Gutiérrez proposed that another public hearing be held in Arecibo, although he said he will not limit demonstrations the community may propose.
"That is why I voted against PROMESA, because you can see how a group of people who are not elected and who do not have to comply with anyone, can work in secret," Gutiérrez said.
Meanwhile, Mark J. Green, project manager at Energy Answers Arecibo, defended that the incinerator has been selected by the Board as a priority development.
"The project ... offers the unique ability to help address, simultaneously, the ongoing economic development, the crisis of renewable energy generation and the management of solid waste, currently underway in Puerto Rico. The ability to provide immediate and lasting benefits in these areas is the reason why the project is well positioned to be considered a critical project," he said in writing.
He argued that the current solid waste management system in Puerto Rico is based on landfills, with more than 80 percent of them not meeting or complying with environmental regulations, a situation that, he said, would also serve the construction of the plant.