Federal regulator: Natural gas terminal in Port of San Juan was built without authorization
Assumes jurisdiction, orders New Fortress to comply with the federal law
By The Star Staff
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has determined that New Fortress Energy’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in the Port of San Juan was built and currently operates without complying with the Federal Natural Gas Law, the Renewable Energy Now Alliance (AERA by its Spanish initials) announced Monday in a press release.
Therefore, the federal agency will assume jurisdiction, requiring New Fortress to submit a request to determine whether it will be authorized to operate the terminal, the press release said.
The FERC’s decision came in response to multiple claims and actions from the communities near the unauthorized New Fortress Terminal, as well as religious, environmental and civil groups in Puerto Rico. The organizations that make up AERA and other entities warned the federal entity about the danger posed by the highly explosive and polluting New Fortress LNG terminal.
New Fortress began the construction and operation of the terminal in the Port of San Juan to supply methane gas to units 5 and 6 of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) power plant in Puerto Nuevo and to private companies. In addition, New Fortress built the terminal without complying with the requirement to prepare a location consultation and with no opportunity for nearby communities and affected groups to participate in public hearings, AERA said.
“We feel some relief to know that at last we are going to begin to intervene with this situation that worries us because we do not want another accident to occur like Capeco or Humberto Vidal,” said Sary N. Rosario, a resident of Puerto Nuevo Norte. “You cannot wait for a tragedy to occur and then take action. All lives are precious, and people deserve to feel safe where they reside.”
The volatility of methane gas exposes vulnerable communities to explosion accident risks, as the closest residences to the New Fortress terminal are some 1,312 feet (400 meters) away from the facility. Similarly, the burning of methane gas causes respiratory problems, including asthma, among other adverse effects on the health of nearby residents, something that is especially dangerous in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rosario said.
The AERA organizations and various island sectors have voiced their concerns regarding the health and safety risks that the New Fortress operation represents, especially for the communities of Sabana, Amelia and Vietnam in Guaynabo, and for the Borinquen and Puerto Nuevo Norte neighborhoods of San Juan.
“People who live near this terminal have legitimate concerns regarding their life and health,” Rosario said. “This is a matter of eco-justice for the communities and also of climate justice, since the burning of fossil fuels such as methane gas contributes to the dire consequences of the climate crisis.”
The organizations that make up AERA and the Hermandad Pastoral de Puerto Nuevo, which includes church pastors from the aforementioned communities, requested the FERC’s intervention in the case. Felipe Lozada Montañez, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico, said “defending life is our main goal, and a fundamental part of that is defending the environment, which is part of creation.”
New Fortress is also under legislative investigation for possible irregularities under which it built and is operating the terminal.
AERA promotes the Queremos Sol proposal (queremossolpr.com) that PREPA install rooftop photovoltaic systems on houses and commercial properties as the main alternative for generating electricity in Puerto Rico.
According to the press release, AERA is made up of community and environmental organizations in Puerto Rico that came together to defend renewable energy as the best alternative for the transformation of Puerto Rico’s energy system.
The organizations that are part of AERA are: CAMBIO Puerto Rico, Sierra Club Puerto Rico, Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Earthjustice, El Puente-Enlace Latino de Acción Climática, Campamento Contra las Cenizas en Peñuelas, Amigos del Río Guaynabo, Coalición de Organizaciones Anti-Incineración, Comité Yabucoeño Pro-Calidad de Vida, Alianza Comunitaria Ambientalista del Sureste, and Mayagüezanos por la Salud y el Ambiente.