Environmental groups demand investigation of Agriculture secretary
By John McPhaul
A coalition of environmental and agricultural organizations is demanding that Agriculture Secretary Ramón González Beiró be investigated in the face of complaints by the former executive director of the Land Authority, who alleged illegalities by the official.
Among the alleged illegal actions is authorizing farmers to sublet public agricultural lands set aside by the agency to convert them into industrial-scale renewable energy production facilities.
“Allowing industrial renewable energy generation projects on agricultural and ecologically valuable land is worrying because in addition to destroying the soil, one of the most important natural resources we have, this type of action drastically reduces the amount of land available for agriculture and the ability to feed ourselves,” said David Sotomayor Ramírez, a professor of soil science at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, in a written statement.
The Lands for Agriculture and Roofs for Energy coalition and campaign, made up of island environmental and agricultural organizations, demands that the Legislature conduct an investigation to confirm whether the secretary of Agriculture promotes and allows the aforementioned type of illegality.
Up to now, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau has approved 18 industrial renewable energy production projects proposed on land with high agricultural and ecological value that impact thousands of acres on the island.
“For more than 10 months, from the coalition and campaign we have been denouncing our concerns about this threat of great impact for the future of the country,” said Ruth Santiago, a spokesperson for the environmental coalition. “We have expressed our concerns to Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico, Ramón González, Secretary of Agriculture, and Manuel Hidalgo, President of the Planning Board. We have requested an audience and none have responded. The people have been denied the due process of public participation.”
Santiago is also a member of President Joe Biden’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council.