The San Juan Daily Star
Dalmau Santiago asks members of Congress to defend PR on offshore wind energy
By The Star Staff
Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago on Monday asked several members of the U.S. Congress to intervene in the discussion of President Joe Biden’s bill, known as “Build Back Better” (BBB), because the bill would ban Puerto Rico from developing offshore wind energy projects in its territorial waters for decades.
“It has come to my attention that interests linked to fossil fuel contracts with PREPA [the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority] may be behind the legislation to extend this new authority to the BOEM [Bureau of Ocean Energy Management],” Dalmau Santiago said at a press conference. “This makes no sense and our ability to develop offshore wind energy projects must be maintained under our Coastal Zone Management Act, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and under the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3). Delaying these projects through a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management process will extend PREPA’s expensive fossil fuel contracts for years in order to meet energy generation needs.”
Dalmau Santiago described the extension of a federal regulatory provision included in Section 71002 of the BBB as a “poison pill.” He said the bill would subject Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to additional and unnecessary regulation and bureaucracy administered by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM.
In the letter Dalmau Santiago points out how “the BOEM usually takes between 6 and 9 years to evaluate and endorse or allow an offshore wind energy project.”
“Puerto Rico needs to disconnect from fossil fuels now, in the short term, so we cannot wait a decade or two,” he said.
Likewise, he pointed out that “fossil fuels will continue to disproportionately hit the Puerto Rican working class, effectively becoming a billion-dollar tax over the next decade.”
“Furthermore, significant carbon emissions, which are preventable, will continue to adversely affect our health, and that of the planet,” the Senate leader said. “This would be inconsistent with the commitments President Biden made in Glasgow a few months ago.”
He highlighted that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and the federal Department of Energy announced a memorandum of understanding so that federal funds for the island’s electrical system be used to ensure that by 2050 all of the energy generation comes from renewable sources.
“We are all in favor of approving the Build Back Better Act. But if the BOEM application to Puerto Rico included in Section 71002 is not eliminated, the agreement signed by Governor Pierluisi and federal Energy Department will be impossible to comply with,” Dalmau Santiago said. “That is why I make this call to Senator Sanders, friend of Puerto Rico and defender of renewable energy, for him to intervene.”
The letter was sent to U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.), as well as U.S. senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Robert Menéndez (D-N.J.).