Journalists file mandamus demanding release of PREPA-AES info
By John McPhaul
The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI by its Spanish initials) and journalist Omar Alfonso, editor of the regional newspaper La Perla del Sur, filed a mandamus on Tuesday on the constitutional right of access to public information to demand that they receive information related to the renegotiation of the contract between the AES coal-fired power plant and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
In October 2021, in coordination with Alfonso, the CPI requested that PREPA produce a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was sent by AES President Jesús Bolinaga to then-PREPA Governing Board Chairman Ralph Kriel Rivera. The MOU was delivered to the CPI in October.
But the document refers to two letters with complementary information dated Aug. 11 and Aug. 25, 2021, which were not provided. Since October, the CPI and Alfonso have requested a copy of the letters from PREPA and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB), the island’s energy industry regulator, but they were not delivered despite multiple follow-up efforts.
The legal appeal filed on Tuesday names PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón and PREPA Governing Board Chairman Fernando Gil Enseñat, as well as Edison Avilés Deliz, head of the PREB, as the officials who must deliver the requested documents.
Alfonso, who since 2015 has investigated the impact of AES coal ash on communities and the environment in the southern zone of the island, said “it is inconceivable that an agreement of this magnitude is approached behind the back of the country and without open discussion.”
“The active participation of those who suffer the direct consequences of environmental pollution is sabotaged when the information is not available,” he said.
CPI Director Carla Minet added: “Access to public information is still a great challenge for citizens and for the press, and the CPI is going to exhaust all available remedies to ensure that public officials recognize and respect this fundamental right in a country that aspires to be democratic.”
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by the Legal Clinic at Interamerican University Law School and their attorneys Luis José Torres Asencio and Steven Lausell Recurt.