Puerto rico government

Puerto Rico Bay Dredging Will Lock Into Fossil Fuel Addiction, Enviros Say

San Juan Bay as a sandstorm from the Sahara desert region sweeps through San Juan, Puerto Rico June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Gabriella N. Baez

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  • New lawsuit says federal dredging approvals skimped on environmental reviews
  • Project would promote reliance on liquefied natural gas despite Puerto Rico‘s climate goals

(Reuters) – U.S. government approvals for an expansion of San Juan Bay threaten to lock in fossil fuel dependence in Puerto Rico for years to come, despite the territory’s ambitious climate commitments, environmentalists said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Environmental groups have asked a DC federal court to overturn approvals for dredging in the bay to widen shipping channels for transporting fossil fuels. The plaintiffs said the approvals were rushed and ignored potential harm to endangered corals and sea turtles, damage to the health of disadvantaged communities and fears the project could foster natural gas dependency despite the mandate of the island for 100% renewable energy for electricity needs by 2050.

The dredging project will facilitate the shipment of greater quantities of oil and liquefied natural gas to terminals along the bay, according to the complaint. Currently, tankers must lighten their loads to reach the bay’s oil and LNG terminals, the Army Corps of Engineers noted in a 2018 report.

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Plaintiffs from the Center for Biological Diversity, El Puente and Coralations say the project frustrates the goals of a 2019 mandate to move away from fossil fuels, which was passed after hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in 2017 These storms caused widespread power outages and exposed vulnerabilities. of the island traditionally dependent on fossil fuels and tourism, said Catherine Kilduff, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Puerto Rico is on track to achieve 100% renewable energy and this project is the federal government undermining it,” she told Reuters.

The Army Corps of Engineers declined to comment.

The expansion of the port requires the dredging and disposal of more than two million cubic meters of sediment. Government agencies conducted various environmental reviews, and the Army Corps of Engineers issued approvals for the project in August 2018.

The case is El Puente v. US Army Corps of Engineers, District of Columbia, #1:22-cv-02430.

For environmental groups: Catherine Kilduff, Julie Teel Simmonds and Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity

For the Army Corps of Engineers: Not immediately available

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